Machu Picchu: Using remote sensing to provide an effective management tool

Machu Picchu, Peru

Space technologies assisting in the conservation of an outstanding Inca heritage site.

Machu Picchu (Peru) is probably the most important urban creation of the Inca Empire. The site was built at the height of the empire; it stands in a beautiful setting 2,430 m above sea-level, amidst Peru’s tropical mountain forest. Its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem to have been cut naturally into the solid rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin and hosts a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

The majestic beauty of Machu Picchu has made it a very popular destination; its reputation attracts a large number of visitors to the site. This intense footfall further complicates the monitoring and management of the property. Furthermore, the valley that provides access to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco is subject to landslides.

© DigitalGlobe Inc./ DLR
Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru

UNESCO and the Government of Peru are collaborating in a joint project using space technologies and remote sensing in in particular to address these issues and provide the local conservation authorities with an effective management tool. The overall objective is to improve management capacity and facilitate the conservation of both its cultural and natural heritage. The project is highly innovative as it applies satellite radar technology to measure terrain movements (incidence). This technology is particularly useful to assess landslide risks. 

Experts from Belgium, Italy, Japan and Switzerland are supporting this effort in unison with the European and Canadian space agencies; they are participating in mapping activities, the assessment of land use and land use change, the production of 3D models and contributing to a better understanding of potential landslides. 

This project is being implemented in parallel with other initiatives that UNESCO is undertaking under the leadership of the International Consortium of Landslides.


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