Published: 11:30 AM - 12-11-11
The Nazca Lines in Peru are among the world's most mysterious ancient monuments, but tourism and natural elements are posing a risk to their existence.
The iconic Nazca Lines are under threat from natural and man-made causes, reports the World Monument's Fund (WMF). The mysterious giant sketches scratched into the surface of the Peruvian desert attract tens of thousands of visitors ever year, but their popularity might pose one of the biggest threats to its existence.
The WMF has placed this UNESCO World Heritage Site on the 2012 Global Watch List, surrounding concerns that the geoglyphs and lines, which make up the monument, may be in danger. The lines are estimated to have been drawn between 500BC and 500AD by three different cultures, and their strange geometric designs appear to depict giant creatures, such as a monkeys, spiders and birds.
Tourism-related threats to the Nazca Lines include private planes flying over the area without proper safety controls, rising levels of rubbish, and inappropriate tourism infrastructure. The WMF says that management of the site needs to be radically overhauled to ensure the practise of responsible tourism. They added that there needs to be emphasis on educating visitors, and raising awareness as to the fragility of this piece of history.
Footprint Travel Guide writer Ben Box specialises in all things "Latin American, and described his first impression of the Nazca Lines as, baffling, amazing, far more extensive than expected and best seen from the air."
Ben said that although the WMF's inclusion of the Nazca Lines on the Global Watch list is timely, people need to consider all the factors threatening the area. A management overhaul may be needed, but it would be hasty to blame tourism as the main threat to the Lines.
"Most tours have been respectful, certainly those that foreign travellers use. A great many tourists see the Lines by air or from the purpose-built viewing tower and don't venture onto the Lines themselves.
"Most recently, though, there have been grave concerns over the safety of the flights over the Lines, with warnings on the Foreign Office website and such like, so perhaps more people have been visiting the Lines by vehicle."
Urban developments in the area, such as widespread paving of roads have made it easier for tourists to drive to the area, and in some places roads even cut through the lines.
Ben advises that, "responsible travellers need to ensure that any visit to the Lines does not involve any driving or walking over the Lines themselves. Anything that disrupts the margins of the drawings and lines will pose a threat, and in recent years concern has been voiced about the threat of erosion from pollution and climate change."
Ben also warns of the threats posed by natural elements, which are often overlooked by those looking to blame tourism. He added, "The lack of rain in the region ensures that the Lines stay marked in the desert, but should weather patterns change and rain or flash floods occur, that would pose a far greater threat than anything else."