Saving the Inca Trail & Machu Picchu Sanctuary

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Machu Picchu Sanctuary provides refuge to varied plant and animal life, including an astounding number of orchid and butterfly species. Just a few weeks ago, an endangered spectacled bear was filmed as it ambled along the ancient agricultural terraces of Machu Picchu Citadel. The area is under threat, however, by the 6.3 tons of solid waste left behind by hikers each month. Now, local government and travel agencies are banding together to cut the use of items such as plastic bags and batteries and to save Machu Picchu Sanctuary.

Travel agencies in Cusco met this week to discuss the issue of waste left by hikers on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Through a sponsored workshop, a new protocol was established to ensure that these agencies successfully meet the demands of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary Master Plan. It’s all part of a larger conservation effort seeking to reduce the negative impact of tourism on Machu Picchu. Together with the government agency charged with managing Peru’s protected areas and national parks, Sernanp, and the Culture Ministry of Cusco, Dircetur, the agencies and their porters and guides must all cooperate to move towards the shared goal of sustainable tourism.

Currently, 500 people are permitted to hike the Inca Trail each day. This number includes tourists, guides, porters, cooks, and other help staff. Monthly, this traffic creates an average of 6.3 tons of solid waste monthly. This can contaminate the soil, altering the landscape and the habitat of animals within the Sanctuary.

The 2016 deadline for implementation of the new protocol is looming, so agencies need to start making preparations now. Rather than plastic bags, they will use cloth bags made of cotton or burlap in order for hikers to carry their snacks. Items with plastic and glass packaging and cases must be registered upon entry, and the use of batteries should be reduced.

During the third week of January 2016, the newly formed Environmental Commission of the Inca Trail Network (Carci) will meet to supervise the implementation of the new norms.

As a licensed Inca Trail operator, Inca World Travel already observes the general hikers norm that one shouldn't leave any trash behind, but we'll be participating with all efforts to reduce waste along the Inca Trail and halt the deterioration of Machu Picchu Sanctuary and the wildlife and ruins within it so that future generations can enjoy this treasure.

Publication Date: 22 Dec 2015

Author: Carla Colon, Inca World Team

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