Archaeologists, Historians Denounce Plans To Build Airport Near Machu Picchu In Peru
By Parker Diakite
Historians and archaeologists have denounced plans for building a new international airport that would draw millions of visitors to Machu Picchu each year.
A petition with at least 9,000 signatures from archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians, is asking Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra to suspend construction of the new airport because it would destroy the historical site or relocate the airport from Chinchero.
“I don’t think there’s any significant archeologist or historian working in the Cusco area that hasn’t signed the petition,” Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University, told the Guardian.
Situated in the Andes Mountains above the Urubamba River valley, Machu Picchu is a cultural and natural area inscribed on Unesco’s World Heritage List.
In 2017, there were more than 1.5 million visitors to Machu Picchu, which is more than double the recommended limit by UNESCO.
Currently, most visitors come through Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport located in the city of Cusco, approximately 50 miles away from the ruins.
The airport has only one runway and is limited to narrow-body aircraft used for short-haul flights or stopover flights from Peru’s capital of Lima and nearby cities, including La Paz and Bolivia.
The new airport, however, is planned to take much larger planes which would allow flights from major cities across Latin America and the U.S.
“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” Majluf stated. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”
Critics warn that planes would fly too low over nearby Ollantaytambo archeological park, causing incalculable damages to the Inca ruins. Others worry that construction would deplete the watershed of Lake Piuray, which Cusco city relies on for almost half its water supply, as reported in the Guardian.
In an effort to manage the number of tourists, Peru has tightened entry requirements to the site after Unesco threatened to place Machu Picchu on a list of world heritage sites in danger.