Cusco’s new airport: “pending debt” that threatens heritage.

Peru will begin construction of the new international airport in Cusco in the second quarter of the year without the heritage impact study (EIP) that Unesco requested from the Government in order to assess the damage that the project would cause to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

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The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) informed Efe that by the second and third quarter of 2021, the earthmoving and main works, respectively, will begin at Chinchero International Airport (AICC), some 30 kilometers from Cusco, and which will be the gateway to Machu Picchu, the country’s main tourist attraction, EFE reported.

The new terminal, which could receive some six million tourists a year, is a golden opportunity to reactivate the economy and “definitively defeat poverty” in the southern Andean region of Cusco, which lives almost exclusively from tourists visiting its archeological jewels.

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But the project worries global heritage organizations that, in recent weeks, before the eventual start of the works, intensified unsuccessfully their efforts to put in check the AICC that, according to denounce, threatens the preservation of the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the Qhapaq Ñan (Inca Trail) and the city of Cusco, three sites listed as world heritage of humanity.

In early February, the international organization World Monuments Fund sent a letter to President Francisco Sagasti asking him to suspend the works until the completion of the heritage impact study requested by Unesco in July 2019.

A few weeks later, a court of justice admitted for processing a request for protection filed by the association “Unión Ciudadana por la Defensa y la Valoración del Patrimonio Cultural y del Ambiente” (Citizen Union for the Defense and Valuation of Cultural Heritage and the Environment), which demanded the stoppage of the project in view of the “irreparable damage” it may cause to the cultural and archaeological heritage of the region.

The deadline for submitting the EIP to the United Nations office was August 2021, but the Executive already requested last September an extension to submit the report, which was commissioned to the U.S. corporation “Cultural Site Research and Management”.

In its defense, the MTC argued to Efe that the heritage sites “are not within the direct area of influence” of the airport and asserted that it “complies with all the necessary studies to ensure that archaeological and environmental remains are not affected”.

Beyond the heritage issue, the airport also caused rejection to pilots associations, who warned that the site meets adverse conditions for the departure of aircraft, including wind and proximity to mountains, to which the MTC said that “the flight procedures designed are perfectly feasible.”.

In fact, the new air terminal will be built at 3,699 meters above sea level and will occupy the twelfth position in the ranking of airports at the highest altitude in the world.

The MTC specified that the project, which involves an investment of more than 670 million dollars, aims to receive between 4.5 and 5.7 million passengers per year and create more than 2,000 direct jobs and some 3,000 indirect jobs, “benefiting more than one million people”.

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