Machu Picchu airport plans will only end in ruins

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 23 May 2019

In an ironic twist of fate, the Peruvian government has decided to go ahead with the construction of an airport near the wondrous ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

This decision has been criticised by numerous factions from environmentalists to historians are outraged that the Inca site will be so easily disregarded to serve commercial interests.

Machu Picchu is arguably the most famous ancient ruins in the world, and quite possibly the most beautiful.The stone ruins amid the Andes mountain range and lush green vegetation was home to the Inca civilization in the 13th through to the 15th century. The Inca Trail is a sought-after bucket list item for many adventurous travellers, and comprises over 40 kilometres of subtropical trekking.

Even tour operators aren’t keen on the new airport, despite the fact that it would bring in more business. Overtourism is already a big problem at Machu Picchu. The ancient ruins see nearly 6,000 visitor daily in peak season. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) recommends a maximum of 2,500 visitors. Unesco has already threatened to declare Machu Picchu an ‘endangered’ World Heritage Site if there’s no reform and aims to limit tourist hordes. An international airport would only increase the numbers of tourists wanting to visit.

These developments have been a long time coming, according to the Smithsonian, as far back as the 1970s. In 2012, the former president of Peru, Nationalist Ollanta Humala, laid down the foundations for this venture, which is set for completion in 2023. Now, bulldozers are clearing the ground in Chinchero, a small village in the 20-kilometre Secret Valley that Machu Picchu lies in. The village is about an hour away from the city of Cusco.

Cusco, the old Inca capital centuries ago, already has a small airport, Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport, but the plan is to build a bigger one nearer to the site. Cusco Airport only has one runway, and is limited to smaller craft. The new airport in Chinchero will be designed to accommodate more. It’s a bit longer than a three hours’ drive from Cusco to Machu Picchu, so the convenience of this new airport may be very tantalising, but will ultimately affect the overall appeal of the region and tourist offerings if it spoils the view and experience. That’s not the only concern, as air traffic and noise and air pollution is inevitable.

A popular Latin American tour operator, Viva Expeditions issued its own statement on the airport developments. Founder Rachel Williams even mentioned that Peru’s sights and offerings are not limited to Machu Picchu alone. ‘Plane landings into the guts of the Sacred Valley is simply a bad idea! Air traffic in the would create a lot of disturbance not only physically but the noise will shatter the peace degrading the whole sacred valley experience. More day trippers or ‘tick box tourists’ could start visiting Machu Picchu creating a theme park out of a sacred place. Peru is not Machu Picchu, its Lake Titikaka, Amazon and the Colca Canyon. It has so much to offer!’

Image: Pixabay

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