The new Machu Picchu airport that is under construction in Chinchero is the cause of a huge controversy amongst both locals and many academics, who feel that it will lead to the collapse of the iconic Incan site.
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Initially set to begin building in 2013, the site faced many false starts before finally starting construction in January 2019. However, it is now the centre of a series of concerns. The famous ancient site saw over 1.5 million visitors in 2017, leading to new rules allowing visitors to access the site only in two shifts.
With such rising pressures, many are concerned about the impact the new Machu Picchu airport will have on the site. Amidst fears of severe overtourism, a petition was set up, earlier this year to prevent construction going forward. While it gathered over 5000 signatures, the ground was still broken on the new airport.
New Machu Picchu airport is a cause for serious concern
As Dr Gabriela Ramos, a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, told Lonely Planet, “The Sacred Valley is also one of the most beautiful and environmentally-rich sites in the southern Andes. The airport will destroy the whole Sacred Valley of the Incas by bringing a number of tourists the area cannot sustain.”
There is also the issue that the airport will harm, rather than benefit, the economy of nearby Cusco. Previously the starting point for most trips to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. But, the new airport will mean that tourists can go directly to sights in the Sacred Valley; limiting their time (and spending) in the area.
Dr Ramos is also concerned that the project will “destroy a magnificent landscape of enormous historical and cultural significance”; and that the surrounding landscape will “be blighted by over 40,000 square meters of runways, terminals, and cargo facilities.”
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In the meantime, visitors are encouraged to visit Machu Picchu (and all similar sights) responsibly, so that they can play their part in its protection.