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Machu Picchu Guide - Conservation

       

THE FUTURE OF MACHU PICCHU
 
In August 2003, UNESCO threatened to put Machu Picchu on its list of World Heritage sites at risk. Unbridled tourism has made it the most visited archaeological site in South America, contributing something in the region of US $40 million to the Peruvian economy. Tourism to Peru, and in particular to the Cusco region, has seen considerable growth in the past few months as people look for a safe holiday destination, away from the threat of terrorism and the tsunami.

The increasing number of visitors to Machu Picchu, which can reach upwards of 2500 a day, has however started to take its toll. Pathways have been eroded, salt deposits left by sticky hands on precious Inca stones, more rubbish generated by day-trippers, not to mention the buses from Aguas Calientes which cough up polluting fumes every time they plough to the ruins and back.

Experts predict that visitor figures could rise to as high as 5000 a day if some kind of limits aren’t introduced. In response to UNESCO’s criticism, the Peruvian government has come up with a $130 million dollar ten-year master plan aimed at tackling the main problems. It proposes for example a substantial increase in the admission fee for overseas visitors together with capping numbers at 2500 per day. In a region given to landslides, monitoring of the earth’s movements by satellite also forms part of the plan. What the government intends to do about the absence of urban planning in Aguas Calientes and an alternative system of transport up to Machu Picchu, both areas of concern highlighted by UNESCO, is still unclear.

In another recent proposal, the government has also suggested shutting the Inca Trail for three months of every year, from January to March, to safeguard the historic highway against damage during the rainy season. In its words, this would “protect the erosion of soil, destruction of flora and fauna and build-up of rubbish.” With numbers already limited to 500 people starting the Inca Trail each day, including local personnel, and with January and February the quietest months for tourism, will such a measure really make all that much difference? Many travel industry specialists believe that trekkers will instead turn their attention to some of the alternative Inca trails to places like Choquequirao or Ausangate, trails which are currently unregulated and which risk significant degradation and contamination themselves as a result.

The Inca Trail has seen the benefits of capping numbers at 500 per day – there is less litter than in previous years, less waste disposal to deal with. It would therefore seem to make sense that similar measures are taken at Machu Picchu itself in order to preserve this pristine example of Inca engineering for future generations. In the meantime, you can play your part by ensuring that you keep to designated paths, get rid of rubbish responsibly and don’t climb or sit on the stonework.

 

   

www.machupicchuperu.info  Text Copyright Anne Noon. Photos Copyright Mike Weston. All rights reserved 2007-2010

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