February 22, 2011

UNESCO Claims Machu Picchu Needs Fewer Tourists

Access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Peru's picturesque Inca city of Machu Picchu, suffering from a growing demand of tourists wishing to visit and access the site, must become limited to protect it, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova tells AFP.

"Machu Picchu is a victim of its own success, because the interest is huge. But at the same time, for us and for the Peruvian people, there is an interest in protecting it," she told reporters after meeting with President Alan Garcia.

In 2000, the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a conservation group based in New York, added Machu Picchu to its watch list of the 100 most-endangered sites. The group later removed it after the Peruvian government scrapped plans to increase the number of visitors and implemented regulations for the Inca Trail, according to the website Transitions Abroad.

Bokova claims "dangerous" effects of climate change that have been damaging the 15th century "lost city", and that her office wants to develop a plan to safeguard the archaeological treasure. She did not immediately say when a UN plan might be unveiled.

Peru's top tourist draw, Machu Picchu is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and deforestation has fueled concerns about landslides near the site that sits 7,970 ft. above sea level.

The site, Peru's top tourist destination, was once a mysterious and hidden set of ruins visited mainly by archeologists and hard core backpackers. In 1992, only 9,000 tourists visited the ruins all year. In 2002, the figure rose to 150,000. In 2005 there will probably be close to 400,000 visitors. Machu Picchu is the most visited site in South America and reportedly generates $40 million each year for Peru's economy, according to Transitions Abroad.

With the power of this one attraction, tourism is the second largest industry nationwide, after mining, and the largest industry overall in the Cusco region. This impressive and enigmatic Inca city was meant to be inaccessible. It lies on a narrow peak wedged into a narrow river valley miles from any areas suitable for large-scale farming.

Until it was rediscovered by American archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911, nobody knew about it apart from a few Andean locals.


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