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Experts and locals warn that new Chinchero airport may destroy Machu Picchu


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Experts and locals are warning that the construction of a new airport in Chinchero may destroy Machu Picchu as we know it.

The fears follow the commencement of construction to build a 40,000 square metre international airport in the Sacred Valley, the former heart of the Incan empire.

Image credit: Fabien Moliné,via Unsplash

Plans for the airport were formulated in 2013 but they were initially stalled by rumours of corruption and political disagreement. By January this year the process to build the Chinchero airport had begun, with the Peruvian government projecting that the site in the small Andean village will be completed by October 2023.

Despite outcry from activists, environmentalists and archaeologists alike, Peru’s finance minister, Carlos Oliva, believes that the airport is “very necessary for the city of Cusco,” according to the Guardian.

Currently most travellers reach the ancient ruins by flying to Cusco airport, which has one runway catering to domestic flights.

The new airport in Chinchero will have the capacity to receive international flights from across the world, making it possible for visitors to jet in and out in a matter of hours.

2017 saw 1.5 million visitors descend upon Machu Picchu. UNESCO claimed this was more than double the recommended amount. This has led to measures such as the introduction of split time sessions limited to less than four hours per visit and restrictions on the Wayana Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains to less than 400 visitors a day.

However, it is not only the fragile Citadel of Machu Picchu that will be directly affected by the new airport. There is a danger that individuals will fly in and not spend any money or time in other regions.

Meanwhile, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the 100km stretch between Pisac and Machu Picchu, will bear the brunt of the increased tourism, with many academics and experts arguing that it will be impossible for the area to absorb any more visitors.

Both socially and geographically, resources are scarce. The nearby dam is feared to deplete with the construction.

The people of the Yanacona, one of Chinchero’s three indigenous communities, have sold nearly all their land according to the Guardian, exemplifying the contradictory nature of the airport - the exact culture and history that visitors seek is being dissolved.

“They want to build an airport – right on top of exactly what the tourists have come here to see,” Pablo Del Valle, a Cusco-based anthropologist, told the Guardian.

However some locals, though apprehensive, believe the proposed construction jobs will be helpful, with others profiting hugely by selling their previously agricultural land to the airport.

A petition, Salvemos Chinchero y el Valle Sagrado de los Incas (Save Chinchero and The Sacred Valley of the Incas), implores the Peruvian President to reconsider the airport construction. Now at over 10.000 signatures, the movement launched by Natalia Majluf is supported by hundreds of scholars worldwide, demonstrating the growing fear that this airport could seriously damage the country’s national patrimony.  

Lead image credit: Fabien Moliné, via Unsplash 

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