Mayan Train Section 5 South Consultation Creates ControversyBy María José Goytia | Wed, 06/22/2022 - 13:43
Civil society continues to resist the construction of the Mayan Train Section 5 South, a key part of one of President López Obrador's flagship infrastructure megaprojects. Following the suspension of the project's construction by a federal judge in May, 2022, the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR) and environmental ministry SEMARNAT published the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), since its absence caused the project's suspension. As part of the attempts to reactivate construction, federal authorities called for a consultation to assess the project's viability. However, civil organizations said the consultation process was found to be lacking.
SEMARNAT’s General Direction for Environmental Impact and Risk decided to publish the EIA and allow the public to consult and propose additional prevention and mitigation measures. The consultation period was set from May 23 to June 17, 2022, according to the guidelines established under Article 34, section IV of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection.
Civil organizations expressed their dissatisfaction with the publication of the EIA, since it was presented months after construction works began, which violates environmental law. The consultation was initially promoted by these civil organizations, which seek to protect the environment of the Yucatan peninsula.
Within the framework of this consultation, SEMARNAT invited academic institutions, researchers, social groups, NGOs and members of society to participate in the public information meeting of on June 7 regarding the EIA for the Mayan Train Section 5 South. The meeting was set at the Jacinto Pat ejido house in Tulum.
Following the announcement of the public meeting, civil organizations such as SOS Cenotes, La Selva Salva, Selva Maya SOS, and Sélvame del Tren issued a statement, asking to cancel the meeting. The organizations maintain that the meeting’s location is neither safe nor neutral for the parties who oppose the train. Therefore, they demanded to modify the date and time of the meeting.
Despite the criticisms, the meeting was held. For more than nine hours, FONATUR and SEMARNAT officials reported on the project's progress. In addition, Acciona, the company in charge of this section’s EPC activities, detailed the characteristics of the construction and operation of the train.
Around 300 people participated in the meeting, where 20 presentations were made by specialists and civil society. Most of the speakers were in favor of the Mayan Train and pointed out its benefits, concluding in favor of the project's viability.
Section 5 South of the Mayan Train consists of 67.6 km of railway that will run from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, with two stations and other works that will affect a total of 516,758ha of land. The megaproject could damage the karst landscapes, harm the integrity of cenotes and cause significant deforestation, as well as destroy archeological and paleontological remains.
The civil organizations opposed to the project have highlighted that "the EIA confirms the unfeasibility of continuing construction in section 5 due to the type of karst soil and the danger of a train passing through it, added to a relevant affectation to the flora and fauna of the Mayan jungle and the contamination of the subway rivers and cenotes, the only source of water consumption for life in the Yucatan peninsula."
Following the outcome of the meeting, opposing organizations continued to advocate for the cancellation of the project. "The problem is that after recognizing all this, they determine that all those impacts… are not significant. The reality is that the environment does not allow for a work of this type to be carried out, and even less so over the largest subway river network in the world, which, by the way, seems to be omitted," stressed Araceli Domínguez, President, the Mayab Ecology Group (GEMA).