The Peruvian government is to sue the environmentalist group Greenpeace after activists conducted a “careless and crass” stunt that may have harmed a 2,000-year-old UN World Heritage site.
Activists allegedly damaged the world-famous Nazca Lines when they placed a banner promoting clean energy in the adjacent desert.
The stunt was timed to coincide with UN climate talks being held in nearby Lima, the last chance for delegates from 190 countries to shape climate policy before the historic Paris 2015 summit.
But Greenpeace has now accepted that its actions deeply offended many locals, and the stunt was described as a “slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred” by the country’s culture minister Luis Jaime Castillo.
The Nazca Lines are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylised plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. They are believed to have had ritual astronomical functions.
The activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area where they laid big yellow cloth letters reading: “Time for Change; The Future is Renewable”. They said after initial criticism that they were “absolutely careful” not to disturb anything, but Peruvian officials claim their footprints have damaged the archaeological site.
Castillo said the government would seek to prevent those responsible from leaving the country and ask prosecutors to file charges of “attacking archaeological monuments”, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.
In a statement, the group said: “We fully understand that this looks bad. We came across as careless and crass.”
It added Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo, would travel to Lima this week to apologise. Greenpeace will fully co-operate with any investigation and is "willing to face fair and reasonable consequences", the statement said.Reuse content