Machu Picchu may have to close for two days each week

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The risks imposed on the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu would be lessened if it were closed to visitors for two days each week, said an expert speaking at the II Conference on Natural Disasters, which is taking place in Lima this week.

Patricio Valderrama, an environmental geologist at Peru’s National Institute of Geology, Mining and Metallurgy (INGEMMET) told efe that the 3,000 tourists visiting each day, as well as the constant flow of buses and trains, might cause instability or subsidence.

This is because the granite rocks that make up the mountain on which Machu Picchu stands “are very fractured, which has caused a number of landslides in the past,” said Valderrama.

He added that studies are being undertaken to determine how many daily visitors the site can safely sustain, and although a definitive answer has yet to be reached he said that “it wouldn’t do any harm to give it a couple of days off each week.”

According to the Peruvian scientists these risks of natural disaster were “identified by the Incas, who constructed platforms, terraces and containment walls as well as drainage systems designed optimally to draw off rainwater,” a serious problem in this part of the Cusco department.

“All the same, with the passage of time these systems have fallen into disrepair and the rainwater is no longer draining off, which has brought about a return of certain small problems with the ground structure,” he said.

The geologist added that if these Inca structures are not conserved and repaired, some of the most representative part of the citadel such as the great tower, the three-windowed temple and the main plaza could be endangered by the instability of the terrain on which they are built. He told press that the National Institute of Culture has been working for the past three years to ensure that the systems of drainage channels are adequate, but warned that the number of tourists visiting each day could still bring about a serious risk of landslides.

Two years ago UNESCO warned Peru that if plans were not drawn up to protect Machu Picchu and adjacent ruins, the organisation could declare the site endangered, forcing the government to elaborate a master plan for its preservation.

Valderrama is one of 200 scientists from 44 countries who participated in the II Alexader Von Humboldt Conference on the Role of Geophysics in the Prevention of Natural Disasters, which took place in Lima throughout last week.

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