April 6, 2024
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Jean-Michel Cousteau Raises Alarm over Maya Train’s Potential Impact on Bacalar

TULUM, México – In a recent development that has raised concerns among environmentalists and local activists, the Ocean Futures Society, led by renowned French explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, has written a letter to President López Obrador, expressing grave concerns about the detrimental impact of the ongoing construction of the Maya Train on the Chac estuary. This tributary of the Bacalar lagoon, located in Quintana Roo, is facing severe damage as a result of the construction activities.

The letter from the Ocean Futures Society highlights the distressing fact that the Chac estuary has been gradually filled in, endangering the delicate balance of the ecosystem. However, the organization acknowledges the efforts of the region’s inhabitants and activists who have bravely raised their voices against this environmental crisis, temporarily halting the destructive activities associated with the construction of the train.

It is essential to note that the Chac estuary falls within Section 6 of the Maya Train, specifically the Tulum-Bacalar route. The organization asserts that the damage caused to the estuary is not merely a result of worker error, as authorities have claimed, but rather a consequence of poorly planned construction processes imposed by a powerful minority on the majority of the population.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Raises Alarm over Maya Train's Potential Impact on Bacalar
The Bacalar lagoon area in Quintana Roo harbors an exceptionally fragile ecosystem, according to environmental activists who warn of its vulnerability due to the ongoing construction of the new Maya Train project. (UNAM)

Furthermore, the Ocean Futures Society draws attention to the significant damage inflicted upon the nearby lagoons of Chile Verde and Laguna Guerrero due to rampant deforestation. This destructive practice has had a devastating impact on the mangroves, which are crucial for preserving the region’s biodiversity and providing vital protection against hurricanes. The loss of these mangroves exacerbates the effects of climate change, putting millions of lives and livelihoods at risk.

This is not the first time the Ocean Futures Society has raised concerns about the Maya Train project. In a previous letter sent to President López Obrador, the organization expressed alarm over the shipment of ballast, which threatened the region’s endangered coral reef. As a result of the society’s intervention, a judge ruled to block further ballast shipments near Puerto Morelos, highlighting the environmental importance of protecting this delicate ecosystem.

The society echoes the sentiments of Mexican environmentalists and civil society groups, who have filed numerous legal injunctions against the 1,500-kilometer railroad loop planned for the Yucatán Peninsula. The Maya Train is intended to provide transportation services for commuters, cargo, and tourists in the region. However, the project’s critics argue that it comes at a tremendous cost to the environment and local communities.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Raises Alarm over Maya Train's Potential Impact on Bacalar
The transportation of ballast from Cuba for the Maya Train tracks was reportedly responsible for significant harm to protected reefs in Quintana Roo. Subsequently, a judge ultimately issued an injunction against further imports. (@MarthaluzCadena/Twitter)

Coinciding with the Ocean Futures Society’s latest intervention, local environmental groups have issued an open letter calling on the federal government to halt construction work on Section 6 of the Maya Train. They demand that an alternative route be found to avoid further damage to the fragile Bacalar wetlands.

The letter from these environmental groups highlights the lack of public consultation and the absence of supporting documents and engineering plans related to the decision to pass the road over the wetlands. The proposed solution of an elevated bridge over the Chac estuary fails to address the core problem, as it still necessitates the filling in of several kilometers of wetlands and disrupts water flows, causing irreparable harm to the ecosystems.

Environmental organizations argue vehemently that this decision represents a colossal mistake with far-reaching consequences for the delicate ecosystems that define this region. The Bacalar lagoon system, known for its striking turquoise color and serene ambiance, houses the largest bacterial reef on the planet and spans hundreds of hectares of mangroves and orchids, which provide habitats for numerous species. The region’s growing popularity as a tourist destination further emphasizes the need for responsible and sustainable development that safeguards the environment.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Raises Alarm over Maya Train's Potential Impact on Bacalar
Despite assurances by the federal government that it is taking environmental precautions, the Maya Train project has raised significant concerns among experts throughout its construction. (@Avispa_Midia/Twitter)

The concerns raised by the Ocean Futures Society, alongside the collective voices of local environmental groups, serve as urgent reminders of the importance of preserving Quintana Roo’s natural wonders and maintaining the delicate balance of its ecosystems. It is imperative that authorities take immediate action to address these concerns and find a solution that ensures the conservation of biodiversity, the protection of vulnerable habitats, and the sustainable development of the region.


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