Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

July 23, 2024
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Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum’s Ecosystems

Construction of the Tren Maya Section 5 South is halted indefinitely due to environmental violations following a court ruling prioritizing the protection of Tulum's ecosystems.
Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

TULUM, México – In a significant development, the First District Court in Mérida, Yucatán, has issued a definitive suspension of the construction works on Section 5 South of the Tren Maya, spanning from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. This suspension will remain in effect until a final judgment is rendered as part of the amparo trial 821/2022. Judge Adrián Fernando Novelo ruled that continuing construction in this section could cause irreparable damage.

The court order highlights the federal government’s violation of the environmental impact authorization granted by the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) in June 2022. The judge emphasized that activities prohibited by the ecological permit were being carried out, prompting this decisive action to safeguard the environment.

The decision is based on a report from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa), detailing non-compliance with condition 26 of the environmental impact resolution. The inspection, conducted from February 19 to March 5, revealed several infractions, including the illegal washing of cement mixer trucks, the spillage of cement into caves, and unauthorized water extraction.

Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

Among the specific violations, Profepa documented cement dumping into the Garra de Jaguar, X’tun, Manitas, and other caves, resulting in solidified cement obstructing these natural formations. Additionally, protective casings around construction piles were found to be rusting, cave ceilings were collapsing, and water bodies were contaminated with construction materials.

The report aligns with the concerns raised by scientists, environmentalists, and activists regarding the environmental violations in the construction of Section 5 South. Despite denials from federal authorities, including President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the head of Semarnat, Luisa Albores, Profepa’s evidence led the judge to halt the construction.

The ruling underscores the principles of prevention and dubious pro-Natura, which mandate judicial authorities to prioritize environmental protection in cases of uncertainty. The Semarnat’s environmental impact authorization explicitly prohibited activities that could harm the region’s unique geological formations, such as cenotes and caves. However, ongoing construction activities continued to violate these restrictions.

Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

The Tren Maya project, a flagship initiative of the Mexican government, has faced numerous legal and environmental challenges since its inception. The project aims to connect key tourist destinations in the Yucatán Peninsula but has been criticized for its potential environmental impact on the region’s delicate ecosystems.

In March 2022, an indirect amparo was filed, challenging the government’s failure to protect the right to access information, citizen participation, and a healthy environment. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) had previously ruled that the initial environmental assessments were insufficient, leading to further legal scrutiny.

In August 2022, the judge initially denied a definitive suspension, prompting an appeal. By June 2023, a Collegiate Tribunal accepted the appeal, ordering the case to be re-evaluated. The latest suspension order reflects the judiciary’s ongoing commitment to environmental protection amid mounting evidence of non-compliance by the federal government and its contractors.

Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

The recent reports from the citizen movement Sélvame del Tren, including complaints from cave divers about the ongoing damage to the region’s subterranean ecosystems, further supported the court’s decision. The movement documented how construction activities filled caves with stones and deteriorated protective casings, exacerbating environmental damage.

The court’s ruling mandates an immediate halt to all construction activities in Section 5 South until a final judgment is issued. This measure aims to prevent further irreversible damage to the area’s unique natural features. The judge stressed that environmental protection must take precedence despite significant infrastructural projects.

Tren Maya Construction Suspended to Protect Tulum's Ecosystems

This decision is a crucial reminder of the need for rigorous environmental oversight in large-scale developments. The suspension serves as a call to action for the government to adhere strictly to environmental regulations and prioritize sustainable practices in executing national projects.

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