The historical ruins of Machu Picchu are facing potential disaster as a newly proposed airport is threatening this Incan citadel in Peru.
According to Unesco, the citadel of Machu Picchu is already facing considerable strain from the increased number of visitors, which increased by more than double in 2017.
With the increased number of visitors, the Peruvian government has approved a multi-billion dollar international airport that would jet tourists directly to the historical ruins of Machu Picchu, despite the apprehension of the locals, archeologists, and historians about the fragility of the site.
Bulldozers are already scraping clear millions of tonnes of earth in Chinchero, a picturesque Inca town about 3,800 metres above sea level that is the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This area was once was the heartland of a civilisation that stretched from modern-day Colombia to Argentina, and in the 15th century was the world’s largest empire.
“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” says Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University who has organised a petition against the new airport. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”
Most of the visitors fly to the Cusco Airport before making their way to Machu Picchu; however, due to its size, it has been unable to keep up with the flight demands of the tourists.
But the new airport, which construction companies from South Korea and Canada are queueing up to bid on, would allow direct flights from major cities across Latin America and the US.
Critics say planes would pass low over nearby Ollantaytambo and its 134 sq mile (348 sq km) archeological park, causing potentially incalculable damages to the Inca ruins. Others worry that construction would deplete the watershed of Lake Piuray, which Chinchero relies on for its water.
“It seems ironic and in a way contradictory that here, just 20 minutes from the Sacred Valley, the nucleus of the Inca culture, they want to build an airport – right on top of exactly what the tourists have come here to see,” said the Cusco-based anthropologist Pablo Del Valle.