Major work will begin on the controversial new Chinchero International Airport (AICC) in June, but El Comercio reports that no environmental study has been done.
The government has a “short list” of bidders interested in building the Cusco air terminal by 2025. Earthworks will be tendered – starting in February – for an amount of US$145 million. However, the MTC does not yet have the EIP required by UNESCO in view of possible effects on Machu Picchu and Qhapaq Ñan.
A South Korean consortium including Dowha Engineering is in charge of Chinchero’s PMO, an office that, since November, 2019, and after signing a government-to-government contract, provides technical assistance to Peru for the construction and operation of the airport.
Kyo Keun Kwon, Executive Director of Dohwa Engineering, recently showed the preliminary design of the AICC that will be built on a 446-hectare site (with a 4,000-meter-long runway and 13 aircraft parking positions).
Kwon explained that phases 1 and 2 of the project were to be completed by January 2021, involving the revision of the final engineering study (EDI) and its conversion into a technical file for the bidding process, as well as the management of the bids for the execution and supervision of the works.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) told El Comercio that the construction schedule had been modified. Stage 1 of the preliminary work (earthwork for 90% of the project area) will begin in February. Stage 2 (construction of the air terminal and landing strip) will begin in June.
According to the MTC “the signing of the contract [for earthwork] is foreseen for January 2021…the referential value of the work, this amounts to approximately US$145 million, not including IGV.”
According to Dohwa, the work will extend until September 2024 (end of phase 3) and then the airport will be put into operation by June 2025 (phase 4).
In July 2018, UNESCO sent a letter to the Peruvian government to request a heritage impact study (EIP) of the project in Chinchero, which established the possible damage that the future airport would cause to three properties listed as world heritage: the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the Qhapaq Ñan (Andean road system) and the city of Cusco. The deadline was August of that year, but the Ministry of Culture (Mincul) responded in September that it required an extension to prepare a “broad study”; it also advanced that through the archaeological evaluation (PEA) and permanent monitoring (PMA) projects “no cultural evidence was found” in the field.
In February 2020 El Comercioreports that they gained access to the two EIPs that the MTC commissioned to measure the possible impact on Machu Picchu and the Qhapaq Ñan.
Between the two documents, up to 60 impacts were identified on the two archaeological sites. Of that total, 39 were classified as negative and 65% would generate some type of impact on heritage.
In the case of the Machu Picchu, it was determined that there could be an “accelerated wear” of the earthen floors, as well as the “deterioration of the lithic surface” by the action of the visitors and tourists who would arrive thanks to the airport.
After that, the MTC announced that it had sent the two EIPs to the Mininstry of Culture for analysis and evaluation. In addition, they explained that they were already coordinating with the Mincul and the PMO to develop terms of reference (TOR), in order to hire “international experts who will be in charge of the development” of a conclusive EIP to be submitted to UNESCO. The TORs were supposed to be ready in March 2020, but with the arrival of the pandemic there was no progress.
Consulted about the final EIP that should be sent to UNESCO, the MTC said that this document was already commissioned to the PMO last December for an amount of US$780,000, although they did not specify when it will be completed and submitted. According to El Comercio, when the ministry was asked why works were being tendered in Chinchero without the results of the EIP or the approval of UNESCO, there was no answer.
Jose Hayakawa, president of Icomos Peru, considered that starting any work in Chinchero, when the EIP has not yet been put under consideration by UNESCO, “is nonsense” and “a decision without technical support”. “For this project it is necessary to look at the heritage not only as vestiges, but also the natural environment, the cultural landscape. Any intervention linked to the AICC has a direct or indirect impact on Machu Picchu, the Qhapaq Ñan and the city of Cusco because it encourages the arrival of more people. That is why a detailed study is required, which does not exist today,” he said.
The district mayor of Chinchero, Hector Cusicuna, the airport project is a wish of his people that must be realized by the government of Francisco Sagasti and the incoming one, since it represents a possibility of development. He added that the campesino communities in his jurisdiction have renewed their directives, and these have reaffirmed their commitment to support the construction of the AICC.
“We met with the South Korean PMO in the first days of December. Representatives from the MTC, Minedu and Housing also participated. They indicated that a road ring will be built around the airport thanks to Provías Nacional and Decentralized; while there are proposals to improve the educational infrastructure with Pronied, as well as the sanitation of the population center. We do not know what the EIP is about, but the bidding process for the movement of land is about to conclude. We have been told that the two finalists are RCC and Hyundai [of the Chinchero Consortium],” Cusicuna explained.