April 6, 2024
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Maya Train’s 7 Million Fallen Trees Stir Environmental Debate

TULUM, Mexico—The Federal Government has disclosed that constructing the Maya Train, a flagship infrastructure project championed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has resulted in the felling of over 7 million trees between 2019 and 2023. This revelation, obtained through an information request, underscores the environmental cost of the rail network designed to boost tourism and economic development in Mexico’s southeastern region.

The most significant deforestation impact has been observed in Section 5, stretching from Cancún to Tulum, where 3.5 million trees were cut down, followed by Section 6 from Tulum to Chetumal, with 2.67 million trees removed. The National Fund for Tourism Promotion (Fonatur), responsible for the Maya Train project, has stated that the cleared vegetation was chopped and shredded for slope protection along the construction site to preserve soil characteristics.

Maya Train's 7 Million Fallen Trees Stir Environmental Debate

Despite these measures, the magnitude of tree removal starkly contrasts with President López Obrador’s 2018 pledge that not a single tree would be felled for the project. The government now argues that this environmental impact is offset by reforestation efforts and initiatives like the “Sembrando Vida” program, which aims to plant between 450 and 500 million trees across the five states traversed by the Maya Train route. However, specific details on the number of trees already planted and their survival rates remain undisclosed.

Fonatur has asserted that for every tree removed, another would be planted, potentially even more, to mitigate environmental impact. Yet, as of this report, Fonatur has not provided updated responses on these reforestation efforts.

Maya Train's 7 Million Fallen Trees Stir Environmental Debate

Environmental groups have criticized the Maya Train project for its impact on caves, cenotes (natural sinkholes), and the aquifer system. Moreover, construction has proceeded in several areas without the necessary environmental permits and, in the case of Section 5, despite a judicial order to halt work due to environmental concerns raised by activists.

Despite the environmental and legal controversies, President López Obrador’s administration continues to defend the Maya Train project, emphasizing its potential to create jobs and stimulate economic development in Mexico’s southeast. The administration argues that the project’s benefits will ultimately outweigh its environmental costs, proposing the Maya Train as a catalyst for regional transformation.

Maya Train's 7 Million Fallen Trees Stir Environmental Debate

As the debate over the Maya Train’s environmental impact continues, balancing development and conservation remains challenging. The project symbolizes a broader struggle to reconcile economic ambitions with the imperative to protect Mexico’s rich natural heritage.


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