We’re going to take a wild guess and suggest that, either you’ve been to Machu Picchu, or you really want to go.
Few locations on Earth can match the Inca citadel for lush, untamed grandeur, and its 15th-century ruins and mountain scenery have made it a shoo-in for self-respecting bucket lists. A fragile gem admired by visitors, historians, and the Peruvian Tourist Board, the site is protected by a strict set of regulations and laws.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that archaeologists and social media users alike are not best pleased about the construction of a multi-million dollar international airport, just a few miles from the site.
Machu Picchu is in my bucket list. The site is already fragile with limited visitors, but still I hope to be able to trek it one day, on foot, stony terraces & all— アマサラ @Seke Torturer (@ry0kiku) May 15, 2019
And now. They're planning. An airport. All I can see from this is countdown to destruction & a dream crushed
Bulldozers have now begun clearing ground in Chinchero, a mountain town at the entrance to the Sacred Valley, that is itself a treasured piece of Incan heritage.
Trouble in paradise
The airport would lay yet another burden on a high-profile site already struggling with overtourism. Thousands of visitors flock to the site every day, swarming the dilapidated ruins, eroding local infrastructure and leaving litter and waste.
UNESCO counts Machu Picchu among its most beloved heritage sites, but maintains a long list of conservation concerns, including poaching, logging, poor waste management, development pressures, and water pollution. 1.5 million tourists braved the slopes in 2017 – nearly twice the amount UNESCO had advised.
The situation has become so perilous that a new ticketing system was installed at the beginning of this year, which introduced pre-booked time slots, a draconian latecomers policy, and a four-hour time limit on visits.
The world’s loss
Onlookers were quick to point out the contradiction of regulating visitor access, while spending millions on a facility designed to do the reverse. "This makes no sense," commented Twitter user @edotmay, "They are tightening up when & how many people can even GO to Machu Picchu bc it’s at risk. But sure let’s build an airport nearby."
Historians and experts have lined up to deplore the decision, while a petition has already been set up on Change.org pleading with the government to reconsider. "The airport," it reads, "will cause irreparable damage due to noise, traffic and uncontrolled urbanisation."
The project has been in the pipeline since 2012, when it was announced by then President Ollanta Humala. It was extremely unpopular then, and it’s extremely unpopular now.