Lawmakers present bill to promote alternative access roads to Machu Picchu

Legislators from President Alan García’s ruling Aprista party presented a bill to congress on Tuesday to promote the construction of access roads as alternatives to train to arrive at Machu Picchu, Peru’s sacred Inca citadel and top tourist attraction. The legislation, which was presented to Congress by lawmaker Luis Wilson, promotes the construction of two access roads that could transport tourists to Machu Picchu if the railway is blocked, state news agency Andina reported.

The first would connect the towns of Ollantaytambo, Santa María and Santa Teresa and continue to Machu Picchu via a short train ride. The second road would extend from the district of Mollepata to Santa Teresa to  Machu Picchu.

Wilson’s bill was signed by the president of APRA’s Parliamentary Committee, José Vargas, APRA’s secretary general, Mauricio Mulder and four other legislators.

A similar proposal was presented by lawmakers in 2004 when heavy rains threatened the rail line into Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“We warned that an emergency entailing the blocking of the railway would create an unmanageable situation,” said Wilson.

That proposal, he added, was blocked by Peru’s National Institute for Natural Resources, or Inrena, which argued that conservation of the Inca citadel should take priority over anything else. “It’s now been made clear with facts that this criteria is incorrect if it is not accompanied by a more integrated solution,” Wilson said.

Machu Picchu’s only access route, besides hiking, is by train. The railway to the citadel was blocked last week when parts of the line were washed away by floods and mudslides caused by torrential rains that battered Peru’s southern Andean region.

Some 2,000 tourists were stranded at Machu Picchu Pueblo – the town below the citadel. Peru’s government sent police and military helicopters to evacuate the tourists and local residents.

Peru’s Civil Defense estimated last week about 23,500 people had been left homeless and more than 37,000 people lost part of their property. Flooding devastated 14,000 hectares of agricultural land and destroyed 4,000 homes. Some of the property destroyed was in Machu Picchu Pueblo, where buildings were built too close to the Vilcanota river and swept away when it flooded.

Peru’s government published in the official gazette, El Peruano, on Tuesday a supreme decree prioritizing the repair of the rail line between Cusco and Machu Picchu, which will remain closed until the railway is repaired. Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Martín Pérez, said the repairs would be finished in eight weeks

The Peruvian Tourism Observatory, or OTP, said the damage caused by the heavy rains and floods would cost tourism operators in the department of Cusco $400 million. “That’s equivalent to 60 days of tourism activities paralyzed in Cusco, which is the time it will take to reconstruct the train to Machu Picch,” Radio Programas Peru reported José Marsano, an investigator with the OTP, as saying.

Tourism is one of Peru’s largest sources of revenue, and Machu Picchu is the main attraction. According to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the 15th century Inca citadel attracted more than 850,000 tourists in 2008.

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One Comment

  1. Its about time there was an access road to Machu Picchu, The business men that own the rail road link, and the bus line up to the ruin has impeded the building of a road long enough….. Its time some of the poor villages in the Urubamba Valley got some of the tourist trade, instead of it all going into a couple of business men’s pockets !!!

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