Machu Picchu, Peru. An American Peace Corps project designed to produce abundant and inexpensive electricity to this remote region of the Peruvian Andes has gone awry, threatening the existence of this ancient Inca city, and causing a mass exodus into the lowlands.
Peace Corps engineers successfully drilled a deep well into an apparently extinct volcano adjacent to this historic settlement, releasing natural gas as fuel for massive generators that produced abundant electricity for a nearly-100-square-mile area. While the project had already begun operation, it was to be formally dedicated by State Department and Peace Corps officials on Earth Day.
"This thermal well will make Machu Picchu a showpiece once again," said one of the U. S. engineers. Warnings from local residents that the well might trigger the sleeping volcano were dismissed as without foundation.
But within days after the generators began operation, the earth shook violently and noxious fumes rose from long inactive fumaroles. After a week of rumbling, the surface of the ground near the well was too hot to walk on, and ash emanated from the fumaroles. The well was immediately capped and the power project abandoned.
A Peace Corps spokesman refuted the claim that the well was responsible for the unexpected volcanic activity. Local residents, however, have filed a suit against the U. S. in anticipation of total destruction of the revered Inca site.
"The locals needn't worry," replied a state department aide. "This run-down site can be redeveloped into a bustling, modern community, with these old ruins leveled, replaced by a Walmart, Starbucks and an Amazon shipping center."