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Chinchero Airport, Peru


The tourism industry is a leading proponent of an airport in the town of Chinchero. Perching on a plateau high in the Andes, Chinchero overlooks the Sacred Valley of the Incas with spectacular views of snow-capped mountains towards the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Peru’s most visited tourist attraction. Situated on the road linking Cusco, Peru’s main tourist hub, with Macchu Picchu, the rationale for an airport in Chinchero is to increase the number of tourists and provide easier, more convenient access. But the project has stoked division and conflict since it was first proposed, in the 1970s. Supporters say it  will bring much needed employment and prosperity. But there are critics  concerned over the socioeconomic and sociocultural impacts . Chinchero retains its traditional farming and weaving industries as well as maintaining long-established social structures, customs and practices such as traditional medicine to a high degree in spite of increasing connections with the wider world.[1]

Land acquisition divided communities

A law conferring powers of compulsory purchase of land on the Chinchero plateau, passed in August 2012, helped pave the way for the airport.[2] Land acquisition for the project caused divisions between the three historical communities,Y anacona, Cuper and Ayllopongo. The airport site is in Yanacona territory with community members having received money for selling their land for the project. But the other two communities did not receive money even though they will suffer similar negative impacts from the airport as residents of Yanacona.  The majority of Yanacona residents voted in favour of the airport.

Divisions between communities were exacerbated by  government dismissal, in cahoots with allied media, of people raising legitimate social and environmental issues as opponents of ‘progress’ and even portraying them as socially dangerous.[1] A 2013 report in a local newspaper stated that various members of affected communities had received death threats from community leaders because they were unwilling to sell land to make way for the airport and other infrastructure.[2]

There was no prior consultation and the government deny indigenous status on the grounds that Chinchero is “too close to a town”.[1] Compensation for land acquisition was only awarded to a small minority; in January 2013 USD56 million was handed over to 426 people, less than 3 per cent of Chinchero’s 12,000 inhabitants. The 426 beneficiaries owned the 350 hectares allocated for the airport but a much larger area surrounding the actual site will be affected.   

The 40-year construction and operation concession for Chinchero Airport was awarded to the Kuntur Wasi consortium in April 2014. Construction, at an initial cost of USD538 million rising to USD658 million with further renovations after the airport commences operations, was anticipated to commence within a few months after relocation of wells and reservoirs on the site and completion of engineering studies.[4] A series of scandal about the contracts terms  forces the Transport Minister at that time Vizcarra (now President) to renounce. Negotiations over the construction contract between the government and Kuntur Wasi culminated in unilateral cancellation by the government in January 2018. The project was stopped. The government then announced that construction would be financed by the state with a USD200 million investment for Phase 1, consisting of a 16 kilometer perimeter fence, followed by ground levelling works, drainage, paving and a runway, scheduled for completion in 2021.[4]  In  2018 Kuntur Wasi desist to demand the government before the CIADI. 

Often residents of the Cusco region protested delayed construction of the airport which they said was to the detriment of tourism .[11] In January 2019 a phalanx of bulldozers and trucks arrived in Chinchero to begin clearing land for the airport. Many archaeologists, anthropologists and historians said the airport and resulting surge in tourism-focused development, in particular unregulated construction of hotels and restaurants, would damage the very cultural wonders-(discovered and undiscovered). Nearly 200 Peruvian and international experts signed a letter to President Martin Vizcarra calling on him to suspend the airport and consider relocating the project.[15]  At the time of writing a petition accompanying the letter had already garnered 6,563 signatures.[16]

Protest against the airport was reported in October 2014,  members of a women’s weaving collective expressed their fear about disappearance of traditions.

Highlighting possible violations of indigenous people’s rights CAN president Antolin Huáscar Flores called for responsible intervention by authorities to ensure their participation in and economic benefit from the airport. 

In May 2019, as bulldozers scraped away millions of tonnes

of earth to clear the site for airport construction, archaeologists, historians

and local people expressed their concerns. Natalia Majluf said “This is

a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the

Incas…Putting an airport here would destroy it.” Cusco-based anthropologist

Pablo Del Valle  said: “It seems ironic

and in a way contradictory that here, just 20 minutes from the Sacred Valley,

the nucleus of the Inca culture, they want to build an airport – right on top

of exactly what the tourists have come here to see.” Mark Rice, author of Making Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism

in Twentieth-Century Peru said the new airport would do a “lot of damage to

one of the key tourism offerings of Cusco, which is its scenic beauty.” Some

locals who rely upon tourism were wary of the airport plans. Other critics of

the project said that damages to the Inca ruins would be incalculable, and worried

that construction of the airport would deplete the watershed of Lake Piuray,

which the city of Cusco depends upon for almost half of its water supply. Expectation

of airport construction had led to new houses and hotels being thrown up

hurriedly in Chinchero in the expectation of a tourism windfall.[17]


Basic Data

Name of conflict:Chinchero Airport, Peru
State or province:Urubamba
Location of conflict:Chinchero District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 1978 COPESCO - Plan Turístico y Cultural Perú-UNESCO (Peru-UNESCO Tourist and Cultural Plan) selected a plateau of land in Chinchero for as the preferred site for a new airport.[18] . Groundworks preparing for construction of the airport commenced in January 2019 and construction of a major international airport with a 4 kilometer runway is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Chinchero Airport is anticipated to replace the existing Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport in Cusco, with capacity for 5 million passengers, rising to up to 8 million passengers . In March 2014 Peru’s investment promotion agency ProInversion confirmed that the project would require an initial USD538 million investment rising to USD658 million.

The 40-year construction and operation concession for Chinchero Airport was awarded to the Kuntur Wasi consortium of Peru’s Andino Investment Holdings and Argentina’s Corporacion America in April 2014. Kuntur Wasi’s consortium finance was approved by OSITRAN (Supervisory Board for Investment in Public Transport Infrastructure). The tender for supervision of construction and engineering studies was awarded to the Valle Sagrado consortium.

After the contract cancellation with Kuntur Wasi, the government announced that construction of Chinchero Airport would be financed by the state with a USD200 million investment, for Phase 1. USD36.3 million was allocated for land acquisition.[4] The airport construction began in February 2019.

Project area:350
Level of Investment:530,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:500- 10000
Start of the conflict:1978
Company names or state enterprises:Kuntur Wasi - Awarded contract to build Chinchero Airport in 2014, contract cancelled by government in January 2018
Valle Sagrado Consortium - Awarded contract for supervision of engineering studies and construction of Chinchero Airport in 2015
ProInversion from Peru - Reponsibility for contractual arrangements for Chinchero airport including award of tender to Kuntur Wasi
Relevant government actors:Government of Peru
Ministry of Transport and Communications
Cusco regional government
OSITRAN - Supervisory Board for Investment in Public Transport Infrastructure
COPESCO - Plan Turístico y Cultural Perú-UNESCO, Peru-UNESCO Tourist and Cultural Plan -
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Confederación Nacional Agraria -

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Desertification/Drought, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsReport in local newspaper of people refusing to sell their land for the airport receiving death threats[3]
Destruction of archaeological sites
Land speculation


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Cancellation of construction contract awarded to Kuntur Wasi consortium and assumed by the government
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Chinchero Airport has displaced people from three communities and triggered social division and unrest. Fertile farmland has will be lost to the airport, weaving livelihoods are at risk and archaeological and cultural treasures will be damaged.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] Pablo Garcia, Ruins in the landscape: Tourism and the archaeological heritage of Chinchero, Journal of Material Culture, April 9, 2017

[9] Andrea Delgado, iSumaqKawsay, Allin Kawsay: Conceptions of Well-Being among Quechua Female Vendors in the Face of Change in Chinchero, Peru, Vanderbilt University, 11 May 2018

[18] Mark Charles Rice, Selling Sacred Cities: Tourism, Region, and Nation in Cusco, Peru, May 2014, Stony Brook University

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Blessing or Curse? The Chinchero Airport, Cultural Survival, 13 February 2014

[2] Country Notes: Chinchero, the Airport in the Clouds, Peruvian Times,31 January 2013

[3] Cusco’s new international airport – a step too far?,, 16 May 2013

[4] Chinchero Cusco International Airport, Centre for Aviation (CAPA)

[5] Problema social complicaría aeropuerto en Chinchero, Diario Correo, 23 October 2014

[12] Chinchero Airport Enters in Doubt,, 26 May 2017

[13] Chinchero Airport Fandango Slips on New Banana Skins as it Crumbles into Costly Confusion, Peruvian Times, 25 January 2018

[15] Airport construction threatens unexplored archaeological sites in Peru, Science, 5 February 2019

[16] Salvemos Chinchero, patrimonio cultural de la humanidad,,

[10] Chinchero — Lost in the Clouds of Poor Engineering, Bad Finance, Peruvian Times, 26 January 2017

[11] 1000s of Peruvians Protest Machu Picchu Airport Construction, Telesur English, 1 February 2017

[6] Machu Picchu is getting an airport. Will it ruin the ruins?, THE STAR, 6 July 2014

[14] Kuntur Wasi consortium says will sue Peru over airport contract, Reuters, 7 February 2018

[17] It would destroy it': new international airport for Machu Picchu sparks outrage, The Guardian, 15 May 2019

[7] Perú : CNA alerta sobre impactos de la construcción del aeropuerto internacional de Chinchero, Via Campesina, 6 January 2017

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

"Si hasta mi piel es color de la tierra, ¿cómo me voy a ir de esta casa?", Confederación Nacional Agraria CNA, 6 January 2017

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected], Raquel Reyra
Last update17/05/2019



Chinchero Airport sign

Sign announcing preparation of land for Chinchero Airport. Source:

Artist’s rendition

Artist’s rendition of Chinchero Airport. Source: The Moodie Report

Mountain view from Chinchero

View from Chinchero, looking out over the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Source:

Indigenous girl speaks out

Quechua indigenous girl Rocio Ccjuiro speaks out to demand protection of the cultural and natural heritage of Chinchero. Source: Via Campesina

Ruins of an Incan estate

The ruins of an Incan royal estate in Chinchero. Source: Felix Lipov/Alamy Stock Photo

Chinchero farmland

The town of Chinchero is surrounded by farmland. Source:

Protest against Chinchero Airport

Social unrest in 2014, banner translation - indigenous people will oppose Chinchero Airport if their rights are not upheld. Source:

Traditional weaving

Traditional weaving survives in Chinchero and is a hallmark of the town’s identity. Source: Cultural Survival

Chinchero Airport location

Map showing location of Chinchero Airport site. Source:

Clearing construction site

Bulldozers clearing millions of tonnes of earth for construction of Chinchero Airport. Photo: Jorge De La Quintana. Source. The Guardian