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Peru

Machu Picchu airport ist being built despite heavy criticism

The legendary Inca site in Peru is getting an airport. Scientists are horrified and warn of severe consequences for Machu Picchu.

Barbara Zandoval/Unsplash

Ruins at the peak of Huayna Picchu: The planned airport endangers Machu Picchu.

At the beginning of the year, the Peruvian government introduced an access restriction for Machu Picchu. Since then, the centuries-old Inca city can only be visited for a maximum of four hours and with a ticket booked in advance for a specific time. With this measure, the country wants to curb the flock of tourists that accelerate the decay of the temples and endanger the title as Unesco World Heritage.

In stark contrast to this are the government’s plans to build a new airport for Machu Picchu by 2023. With the planned airport in the city of Chinchero, about 55 kilometers southeast of the ruins, Peru hopes to attract more visitors to the sites. Back in January, excavators began levelling hilly areas. This despite scientists and inhabitants being horrified and warning of severe consequences. But the construction work continues.

«Airport would destroy everything»

More than 70,000 signatures have already been collected by opponents of the airport. They have handed over the petition to Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra. About 200 experts and scientists express their fear in a protest letter. They are not only worried about a massive number of tourists flooding the ruins. «An airport in Chinchero would have a number of negative effects on one of Peru’s most important cultural landscapes,» says Natalia Majluf, art historian at Cambridge University, who launched the petition.

The construction of the airport and its infrastructure will transform the landscape around Machu Picchu into one, Majluf tells the Spanish daily La Vanguardia. For archaeologists in particular, this is a nightmare, as the entire landscape was shaped by the indigenous people of Peru. «The Incas have laid out terraces and paths here. An airport would destroy everything,» the newspaper Spiegel quoted the historian in May.

Government ignores criticism

Because the planes will also fly over Machu Picchu at an altitude of 600 meters, aircraft noise will also affect the Inca sites in the future, the petition continues. The inhabitants of the area will also face existential problems. Some already have only limited access to running water, Maljuf explains to the newspaper ABC. With Laguna Piuray, the construction of the airport endangers a lake that is one of the most important sources of drinking water in the region.

The government has so far ignored the warnings and is sticking to the construction of the airport in Chinchero. It is intended to accelerate the growth of the region. «70 percent of our income from tourism comes from Machu Picchu,» explains Carlos Canales, president of the Peruvian Chamber of Tourism, the news channel Al Jazeera.

Great poverty

According to Canales, the Chinchero region is still very poor. The supporters of the airport believe that the construction will provide a necessary boost. Opponents fear that it could even get worse because of the negative effects.

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