Machu Picchu Outrage Highlights Heritage Importance

Among the different Inca archeological sites that can be found in Peru, none draw as many tourists as the citadel of Machu Picchu.  In 2017 there were more than 1.5 million visitors to the site – almost double the recommended limits by UNESCO which puts a huge strain on the ruins, as well as the local ecology.  Now, the decision to start work on clearing ground for a multi-billion dollar international airport has drawn a mixture of outrage and horror from locals, historians and archaeologists.  Not only would the airport cause destruction to the local area, but it would enable more tourists easier access to the ruins, causing further damage to the World Heritage Site.

At present, most visitors come through Cusco airport, which has only one runway and is limited to taking narrow-bodied aircraft on stopover flights from nearby cities such as La Paz, Bolivia and Peru’s capital, Lima.  However the new airport, which as construction companies from Canada and South Korea queueing up to bid on, would allow direct flights to the valley from many major cities across the United States, as well as other parts of Latin America.  

Critics of the plans say that allowing planes to pass low over nearby Ollantaytambo and its 134 sq mile (348 sq km) arch archaeological park would cause incalculable damage to the Inca ruins.  Also, there is a worry that construction would deplete Lake Piuray, a watershed which Cusco city relies on for nearly half of its total water supply. 

UNESCO state in their Operational Guidance for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention that ‘the cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole. The loss, through deterioration or disappearance, of any of these most prized assets constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all the peoples of the world. Parts of that heritage, because of their exceptional qualities, can be considered to be of “Outstanding Universal Value” and as such worthy of special protection against the dangers which increasingly threaten them.’   The Machu Picchu development represents unacceptable prioritisation of profit over protecting assets.

As Bulldozers are already clearing millions of tonnes of earth in Chinchero, a traditional Inca town around 3,800m above sea level and the gateway to the Sacred Valley, it has made us realise the importance of heritage and the conservation of important landmarks – from World Heritage sites like Machu Picchu down to local Pendower Hall, Benwell.

As part of our work, we are experts in planning for the historic environment, and can assist in applications for listed buildings, heritage statements, as well as many other services linked to conservation, such as objections to unacceptable applications.  Here in the North East we have been involved in projects close to ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ (Hadrian’s Wall) and always work to the highest standards expected for World Heritage Sites, regardless of project.

Contact us to arrange a meeting and we can discuss how to help you with the heritage and conservation of your project.  You can find out more about the services we provide here and the values which drive our business here. Remember to follow us on Twitter as well as on LinkedIn to keep up to date with the work we do. 

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