Evicted Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary squatters damaged or destroyed at least 400 pre-Inca ruins

Although an offical survey of the damage caused by more than 250 squatting families in the Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary has yet to be completed, local authorities have reported that at least 400 pre-Inca ruins have been damaged or destroyed.

“Arduous work will be required for research and for the site’s conservation,” said Carlos Elera Arévalo, president of the Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary Management Committee. “We can, however, count on a special budget and an emergency fund.”

The squatters, evicted last week amidst a 10-minute shoot-out with police that left two officers dead, damaged at least 400 pre-Inca archeological sites.

Last July, squatters planted onions and corn on top of the Lucía-Chólope, a 3,000-year old palace, weakening its structure.

They also logged 2,000 hectares of carob trees for firewood and burned a large number to produce charcoal, both products for local use and for the wider barbecue market.

“It’s very sad,” said Elera. “I visited the area when it was en exuberant forest and, to go from one place to another, we had to tie markers to trees in order not to get lost. Now everything has been wiped away.”

After the eviction, government and Pomac Forest authorities closed off the area, to avoid squatters from coming back and against any additional damage to the archaeological sites.

The eviction will allow the Environment Ministry to reclaim and reforest the land, as part of a larger nationwide tree-planting project that aims to plant 40 million trees by Feb. 20 to capture more than 570,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“We must start (the reforestation) immediately in order to take advantage of the rain water,” said Elera. “Once the trees regenerate, the birds will come back and the biodiversity will be restored.”

The Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary is located in Batán Grande, an archaeologically-rich area approximately 20 kilometers from Ferreñafe, or 30 kilometers from the north coast city of Chiclayo. The forest is a reserve for algarrobo trees, birds, and varied flora, and the important pre-Inca funeral mounds or pyramids of the Sican Archaeological Project, directed by Izumi Shimada of Northern Illinois University.

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