Latin America & Caribbean

Machu Picchu: Peru unveils plans for new airport

Machu Picchu

Peru's President Ollanta Humala has unveiled plans for a new airport near Cusco which he says will boost tourism to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and the surrounding region.

The current airport, which is only able to handle limited daytime flights, was not sufficient, Mr Humala said.

The government will invest $460m (£290m) in the project, he said.

Machu Picchu is Peru's top tourist attraction but there are concerns over the impact of high visitor numbers.

"This new airport will not only mean more tourists will be able to come, but it will generate more jobs... and help surrounding communities," President Humala said.

At a ceremony on Wednesday, he enacted a law that allows the expropriation of land in the town of Chinchero where the new international airport would be built.

The investment would help the government to tackle poverty, he said, "while always respecting ancient culture".

Tourism is the main source of income in the region.

Machu Picchu is a world heritage site and the UN's cultural agency, Unesco, has previously warned about uncontrolled access and urged the authorities to make conservation a priority.

Currently, entrance to Machu Picchu is limited to some 2,500 visitors a day, amid concerns about the impact on the environment and citadel.

Cusco is the main starting point for visitors wishing to visit the site, who can make the 112km (70 mile) journey either on foot or via bus and train.

The citadel of Machu Picchu, located 2,500m (8,200ft) above sea level, was built in the 15th Century by the Incas.

It was rediscovered in 1911 by US historian Hiram Bingham.

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