April 6, 2024
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Court Derails Maya Train Over Environmental Fears

TULUM, México – In a landmark ruling, a federal court in Merida has mandated a halt on the construction of section 5 south of the Maya Train, sparking a significant controversy over environmental conservation and developmental progress. This decision, issued last Thursday, came after local environmental groups unveiled substantial damage to cenotes and underground water systems caused by the construction efforts, particularly the driving of support pillars for the ambitious infrastructure project.

The First Collegiate Court on Administrative and Labor Matters of the Fourteenth Circuit has now compelled the government to disclose the geological, geophysical, and geohydrological studies for this contentious section. Section 5 South, which extends from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, is part of a larger initiative touted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a means to boost regional development and tourism. However, the President has admitted the project’s complexity, especially given the delicate nature of the region’s underwater rivers and cenotes, necessitating a construction approach that minimizes environmental impact.

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López Obrador, in an October 2023 press conference, highlighted the project’s intricate design, which includes over 80 kilometers of double-track viaducts. “The fact is it has been more complex than we imagined because we are building so as not to affect underwater rivers and cenotes,” he stated, acknowledging the challenges posed by the region’s unique geological features.

Environmental activists have been vocal about the damage inflicted by the construction work, with several groups documenting the adverse effects of installing support pillars along section 5 South. The Sélvame del Tren Association, SOS Cenotes, and Guillermo DChristy have provided evidence of large holes drilled deep into the ground, some of which have breached caves and damaged stalactites, while others have caused leaks in water-filled cenotes. Uploaded videos and photos show rusting structures and leaking cement, raising concerns over potential contamination of the region’s water supply.

Court Derails Maya Train Over Environmental Fears

The court’s decision mandates the government to submit detailed reports on the environmental impact of the construction, effectively pausing the project until it can be demonstrated that the necessary studies have been conducted and their findings adequately addressed. The ruling specifies that “the definitive suspension is granted to paralyze the works of the Maya Train in Section 5 South, until it is accredited before the First District Court in Yucatán, that the geological, geophysical and geohydrological studies referred to in conditions 9 and 10 of the environmental authorization have been carried out, making its results known.”

In response to the suspension, López Obrador used a “what’s news” event to highlight media coverage of the issue, showcasing the front page of the newspaper Reforma, which first reported on the Maya Train’s suspension. Meanwhile, Tren Maya, the company behind the construction, has yet to issue a public statement regarding the court’s decision.

Court Derails Maya Train Over Environmental Fears

This development underscores the ongoing tension between Mexico’s ambitious infrastructure projects and the imperative to protect its rich natural heritage. The Maya Train project, envisioned as a catalyst for economic growth and connectivity in the region, now faces significant environmental and legal hurdles. As the government and environmental groups grapple with these challenges, the future of this project remains uncertain, casting a spotlight on the delicate balance between development and conservation in one of Mexico’s most treasured landscapes.


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