LIMA – The Peruvian Congress unanimously approved a declaration that the construction of a highway to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, currently accessible only by train or a days-long hike, is of “public necessity and priority national interest.”
The project of the Machu Picchu-Santa Teresa-Santa Maria highway “will benefit the thousands of local and foreign tourists who permanently visit the citadel and sanctuary of Machu Picchu,” Congress said in a press release.
It will also “avoid the occurrence of regrettable incidents” such as those in January, when heavy rains isolated some 4,000 tourists in the town of Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, the document said.
On that occasion, the Peruvian government evacuated tourists in helicopters. Meanwhile the Inca citadel remained inaccessible for more than three months causing losses that topped $1 million, according to data from Peru’s National Tourism Chamber.
The declaration of the Peruvian Congress follows a controversy in the country over the possibility of increasing the number of visitors to Machu Picchu above the current 2,500 tourists a day.
Machu Picchu, Peru’s main tourist attraction, is located on a mountain peak in a wooded area of the Cuzco region, and getting there by train is expensive with tickets selling at $100 each.
An alternative route for tourists exists along the Inca trails, which takes several days, or through the town of Santa Teresa, to which visitors have to arrive in small vehicles and then must walk for several hours following the train tracks.
The citadel, located in the midst of a fragile ecosystem, was discovered for the world in 1911 by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham, and in 1983 was declared a World Heritage Site. EFE