Torrential rains, floods and landslides hit the coastal region of Peru in the first months of 2017, resulting in severe damage to the nation’s culture sector. El Nino has severely impacted area communities and infrastructure, and with them numerous World Heritage Sites, museums and national monuments, archaeological sites, intangible cultural heritage and cultural industries. With the support of UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund, the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO have assessed the damage to the culture sector, and defining the needs for recovery.
From 15-21 May, 2017, a team of experts visited the three most affected provinces - Piura, Lambayeque and La Libertad - as part of a joint UN-Government Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). The mission included technical training for culture professionals, engagement with local communities and stakeholders, and consultations with environmentalists, architects and tourism industry representatives. The goal was to elaborate a recovery strategy for the culture sector in the affected provinces.
For example, the areas most severely damaged are particularly rich in archaeological heritage, including the World Heritage site of Chan Chan, which is built out of adobe. Such archaeological sites are particularly vulnerable to the effects of intense rain and floods. The sudden expansion of the river by the Bosque de Pomac archaological area washed away an important, non-excavated necropolis. Museums also suffered damage and the assessment mission is discussing with museum staff about training in emergency responses to safeguard their collections. The floods have meant that festivals, cultural events and markets are suspended. The recovery strategy will incorporate built heritage as well as intangible cultural heritage and the creative industries, all of which support the social fabric in Peru. Tourism, which has decreased significantly since the floods, will also be an element of the strategy.