As Peruvian officials grapple with overtourism at Machu Picchu, one concerned cohort is taking the question of sustainability into its own hands. 

People planting in between mountains
A new reforestation initiative was launched in December © Mountain Lodges of Peru

A new reforestation initiative called One Million Trees for Machu Picchu kicked off last month, with the planting of 100,000 seedlings in the Salkantay River basin – a good half of which were handled by a squad of 250 volunteers. Created and managed by SERNANP (Servicio Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas) and sponsored by REI Adventures, Mountain Lodges of Peru, and its NGO Yanapana Perú, the project aims to minimize the carbon footprint left by visitors to the region and restore the forests of the Andean highlands in Cuzco

© Mountain Lodges of Peru
The project aims to minimize the carbon footprint left by visitors to the region and restore the forests of the Andean highlands  © Mountain Lodges of Peru

Even after the spectacular site received some 1,578,030 visitors in 2018, a 12% increase over the previous year, new rules were imposed in 2019 for timed entry that did little to stem the tide. A new airport is also under construction in a village nearby, which will provide travellers with easier access than ever before – and, some say, cause irreparable damage to the fragile landmark. 

Rows of plants.jpg
100,000 seedlings were planted in December © Mountain Lodges of Peru

According to a press release about the initiative, Mountain Lodges of Peru and Yanapana Perú will look to create a sustainable source of income for the community by establishing a greenhouse in Huacahuasi to supply seedlings for more reforestation campaigns. The plan is to extend the initiative to the Lares region, creating a wide network of similar efforts.

A man in a yellow jacket planting a small tree
Volunteers were responsible for half of the seedlings planted at the kick-off event © Mountain Lodges of Peru

"We are very proud and excited to have broken ground on this project, especially as concerns are growing for the Andean highlands in relation to climate change, recent fires and erosion," Enrique Umbert Olazabal, cofounder and manager of Mountain Lodges of Peru, said in a press release. “Our commitment to the protection of this sacred land is a priority and we are confident that the 'One Million Trees for Machu Picchu' initiative will make a huge impact."

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