Environmental groups and sometimes even UNESCO experts often lobby for the inclusion of Machu Picchu in the United Nations List of World Heritage in Danger to spur preservation.
The site is threatened by deforestation, landslides and urban development.
The number of visiting tourists has burgeoned massively in recent years, from 9,000 archaeologists and hardcore backpackers in 1992 to a few hundred thousand tourists a year in the 1980s to a peak of 1.2 million in 2013.
This would have come as a great surprise to Hiram Bingham, who is credited with discovering the site in 1911 after hearing of it from a local tavern-keeper.
Machu Picchu escapes
Machu Picchu escaped this fate, however, at the 39th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany on 7 July 2015.
The decision was unanimous and there was no debate. It had been deemed that Machu Picchu is not in danger officially because Peru’s Ministry of Culture has been effective in the implementation of UNESCO’s suggestions.
The Peruvian government would prefer Machu Picchu to not be on the list, as this would necessitate greater protection by the state. This is close to a perennial concern – way back in 2001, the BBC ran an article with the headline, Machu Picchu ‘in danger of collapse.’
The first good signs
The first signs that Machu Picchu is not in danger, or at least much less likely to be, were in 2000 when visitor numbers and their luggage were limited, tour operators could use only designated campsites and had to remove rubbish, and propane fuel replaced dangerous open fires.
Tourism is the third-largest and fastest-growing industry in Peru. An estimated 90 percent of income is from Machu Picchu.