Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Salineras de Maras

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Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Salineras de Maras

This attraction is made up of thousands of small pools carved into the mountainside in the Cusco area. The salt pits are however at risk due to the rise in temperature which would lead to the drying up of the water making it impossible to collect salt.

The altitude of the ponds slowly decreases, so that the water may flow through the myriad branches of the water-supply channels and be introduced slowly through a notch in one sidewall of each pond. The proper maintenance of the adjacent feeder channel, the side walls and the water-entry notch, the pond's bottom surface, the quantity of water, and the removal of accumulated salt deposits requires close cooperation among the community of users.

The pond's keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the water has evaporated and salt remains. This process is repeated for about a month building up salt over time. Once enough salt has built up the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom in layers.

The first layer is typically pink or white and is the highest quality, it is used as kitchen (table) salt. The second layer is known as bulk salt and is a lower quality than the first layer, it is usually white. The third layer is typically brown and is used as industrial salt.

Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds.

Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the workers.

The town is well known for its salt evaporation ponds, located towards Urubamba from the town center, which have been in use since Inca times. The salt-evaporation ponds are four kilometers north of the town, down a canyon that descends to the Rio Vilcanota and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There are over 5,000 salt ponds, some owned by families and others unused.