Heavy rains threaten ancient city in northern Peru
Heavy rains are causing widespread damage to ancient ruins in Peru’s normally arid northern coast, says a regional director from the National Institute of Culture, INC.
Enrique Sánchez, the INC chief in La Libertad department, told Enlace Nacional the rains are damaging the adobe walls in the Chan Chan site, the largest city in pre-Columbian America and the capital of the Chimu Kingdom, which reached its peak in the 15th century before being conquered by the Inca Empire.
About 300 miles northwest of Lima, Chan Chan was a 28-square-mile city that was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1986. UNESCO described it as “an absolute masterpiece in terms of town planning,” and “a unique testimony to the ancient Chimu Kingdom.”
However, the same year the site was also added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger due to its exposure to natural erosion from wind and rain.
“Naturally, we always have conservation work,” said Sánchez “but it rains and that produces drips and the drips break the walls, they break the frieze murals… it’s uncontrollable.”
Sánchez added that workers are covering Chan Chan structures with plastic tarps in order to protect it from the rain. “Plastic tarps are put on the monument so they won’t be affected too much, and the next day we take them off.”
According to UNESCO’s 2007 Case Study on Climate Change and World Heritage, the Chavín archeological site, in Ancash department, is also susceptible to extreme floods caused by torrential rains.
In addition to its exposure to heavy rains, the Chavín site is also located in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, where climate change is melting glaciers in the area, causing the formation of glacial lakes, and the potential for glacial lake outburst floods, says UNESCO.
Heavy rains are currently affecting most of Peru. On Jan. 11, the national meteorology and hydrology institute, Senamhi, reported moderate to heavy rain with electrical storm warnings in 20 departments. Yesterday, the National Institute for Civil Defense said 3,633 people in six departments have been affected by the storms.