To allow more visitors to come to the already-most-visited-place in Peru, Machu Picchu, the country has decided to build an airport in Chinchero, a locality 30 kilometers away from Cusco.
However, around 200 Peruvian and foreign historians, anthropologists and scientists are asking President Martín Vizcarra to change the location of the aerodrome, BBC reported.
The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu was recognized by Unesco as a cultural heritage of humanity and its preservation is taken seriously by the authorities, who also recently restricted three areas to visitors to avoid more deterioration and several months ago changed visitation hours from a full day to half a day in two waves.
The works for the airport construction have already begun but in spite of that, the said group sent a letter to Vizcarra that read: "Both the Chinchero plateau and the surrounding valleys are inhabited by platforms and canals and are lined with ritual lines designed by the Incas (...) Building an airport in Chinchero will inevitably have negative effects on the entire environment due to noise, increased traffic and informal and uncontrolled urbanization."
In addition, the letter said that the Veronica snow-capped peak, seen from the plateau, will be surely destroyed “affecting the thousand-year-old harmony of this universe”.
The soil seems to be another important issue. Experts have manifested that they are not appropriate for the construction of an airport and it will probably cause shortages of drinking water in the city of Cusco.
What the project consists of
The Chinchero airport will have a runway at an altitude of 3,728 meters above sea level and a 40,000-square meter terminal with 11 boarding gates and 13 sleeves.
“It is expected that by 2023 about six million people a year will have an easier and direct route to nearby Inca sites”, BBC said, adding that the government insists that it will bring more development to the region in many aspects.
Currently, there is an airport in Cusco, the nearest to get to Machu Picchu, that serves around 5,000 people daily. It has one runway and large aircraft are not able to land on it.
“Local communities have benefited from the sale of the land. According to The Guardian, Yanacona, one of the three indigenous communities of Chinchero, sold almost all of its land to the State for about $35 million US dollars”, BBC explained.
The airport’s concession contract was signed in 2014 by the government of then-President Ollanta Humala, under the public-private partnership scheme. Then, in March 2018 it was announced that the construction would take place as public works.
"Rest assured that this is going to be a historic project because we are going to put all the effort, all the dedication and transparency to take it forward and we can have the airport that is expected for the first tourist destination that is Cusco", were Vizcarra’s words, according to the BBC.
However, the Peruvian historian and former director of the Lima Art Museum Natalia Majluf - one of the signatories of the letter to the president - criticizes the project as an idea "poorly conceived" and says that the airport "will be remembered by future generations as one of the greatest attacks that have been perpetrated against the cultural heritage of Peru," as you can read in the aforementioned media’s website.