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An outrageous plan to build a new airport for Cusco on the beautiful highlands above Chincheros

February 4th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Interesting piece in this week’s Economist which confirms what I was suggesting in a From Our Own Correspondent report for the BBC last year, that Peru is booming away at a phenomenal rate of between 7% and 9% this year, figures that those of us experiencing double or treble dip recessions can only dream of.

The boom has been helped by strong minerals, cautious banks (you have to be a cautious bank if you’re operating in Latin America!) and an emerging middle class.  It’s seen the dollar fall against the local currency, the Peruvian sol, by some 25% over five years – not such good news if you’re planning to travel there, although compensated for by rapidly improving infrastructure:  over the last decade, the number of roads in Peru has doubled, an extraordinary statistic for this huge country that is five times the size of the UK.

But with wealth comes responsibility – and in particular, responsibility for the environment, not something that has always been Peru’s strong suit (remember the riots about introducing gas pipelines to the Amazon, when local indigenous tribes confronted the army and police).

Now there is an outrageous plan to build a new airport on the beautiful highlands above Chincheros, some thousand feet above Cusco, which is the city that it would serve.

The old airport in Cusco is deemed to have run its purpose – mainly because it can’t take international flights, and also because developers are eyeing up what has become a valuable inner-city resource for housing, having started off as a few fields on the outskirts of town when I first went there in the early 1980s.

There are some doubt as to whether a new airport would really do much better for international flights – and no doubt at all that it would be a huge eyesore on one of the most beautiful areas close to Cusco and one which many tourists see as they travel over towards Machu Picchu.

My old mate Nick Asheshov has written astutely about this in his column for the Peruvian magazine Caretas.

The idea has been ticking over for years and no one really thought the authorities would quite bring themselves to do it. Tragically, it now sounds as it is a done deal, as large amounts of money have been handed out to the local communities already as recompense.

The view over the Chincheros plain to Mount Verónica, past lakes and fields of growing quinoa, is one I have always cherished and I for one will be very sad if it now becomes a sprawl of not only the airport but all the ancillary hotels and mess that an airport inevitably brings.

  1. February 5th, 2013 at 15:50 | #1

    I had the fortunate opportunity to trek with Gary Ziegler last Spring and we started one trek in Chinchero. It saddens me deeply to hear of such disregard for the sacred land all in the name of “progress”. You would think that we humans would be awake enough to see how we have disrespected our Mother Earth and our ancestors as well as disregarded our future generations. This land provides sustenance for many…look at it’s beauty in the photo above. So much more valuable than the “mighty” dollar (sol). We need to WAKE UP and STOP such abominable useless projects!

  2. February 5th, 2013 at 18:37 | #2

    Destroying this uniquely beautiful spot to gain more tourist dollars
    would be an outrage. Please add my voice to others writing in support of keeping this spot pristine.

    Thanks,

    Bill Gillette

  3. Tricia Sohl
    July 26th, 2013 at 15:52 | #3

    What is progress – if it destroys what it seeks to promote – and if it steals from the sustenance of the living environment and of the human spirit ?

  4. John Ruser
    August 7th, 2013 at 03:59 | #4

    We had the good fortune to travel by taxi from Urubamba to Cusco through Chinchero and found the scenery breathtaking. We felt as if we were viewing the rolling Tuscan landscape (it was not clear enough to see the high mountain peaks beyond). It would be tragic if that landscape were marred by an international airport. However, from our perspective outside Peru, we of course want to preserve the status quo. The same is true of the Brazilian rain forest, which we insist be preserved with good reason, though after we have denuded our own landscape. It is a worthy goal to preserve the beautiful landscape around Chinchero, but we then need to support a compromise that provides Cusco with a better airport and allows for the growth that the Peruvians are as entitled to as we are.

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