Photo: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

Proposed Airport Near Machu Picchu Sparks Outrage

Sustainability News Archaeology
by Eben Diskin May 15, 2019

Machu Picchu may be one of the world’s most recognizable and widely visited destinations, but it’s also surprisingly difficult to get to, which some may say is part of its appeal.

Visitors must arrive via the small airport in nearby Cusco, which has a single runway and can only accommodate narrow-bodied aircrafts on stopover flights from Lima and other Peruvian cities close by. The airport would allow for direct flights to Machu Picchu from major cities in the US and Latin America, but it would come at quite a cost.

Planes would have to pass low over Ollantaytambo and its archaeological park, causing possible severe damage to the Inca ruins. It is also believed that the construction of an airport would drain the watershed of Lake Piuray, dealing Cusco’s water supply a serious blow.

A petition is currently being circulated demanding a stop to the airport plans. “I don’t think there’s any significant archeologist or historian working in the Cusco area that hasn’t signed the petition,” said Natalia Maluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University, and the petition’s organizer, to The Guardian.

Peru’s finance minister, however, is determined to push ahead with the project. “This airport will be built as soon as possible,” Carlos Olivia told journalists, “because it’s very necessary for the city of Cusco. There’s a series of technical studies which support this airport’s construction.”

Recently, Peru’s government implemented significant changes to the visitation practices of the magnificent 15th-century Inca complex in order to lessen the cultural and ecological impacts of tourism on the UNESCO World Heritage site, and decongest the crowds. According to The Guardian, the site welcomed “more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, almost double the limit recommended by UNESCO.”

H/T: The Guardian

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