Section 5 South of Mayan Train Gets Definitive SuspensionBy María José Goytia | Wed, 06/01/2022 - 11:11
A federal judge has ordered the definitive suspension of the construction of the Mayan Train’s Section 5 South route, running between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Until the amparo is resolved, works cannot proceed. The definitive suspension confirmed the judge’s decision made in April 2022, when he provisionally halted construction due to the lack of required environmental permits.
Adrián Novelo, Head Judge of the First District Court of Yucatan, granted a definitive suspension in favor of the amparo filed by speleologists and divers residing in Playa del Carmen, accompanied by the civil organization Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment (DMAS).
The definitive suspension orders the federal government to "suspend or paralyze any act that has as its purpose the continuation of the construction of Section 5 South of the Mayan Train Project, prohibiting the execution of works related to its construction, infrastructure, removal or destruction of the biodiversity of the land or any other activity that implies its material execution."
Novelo determined that the authorization of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR) regarding Section 5 South does not comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure that should have been obtained before construction started. The judge also argued that the definitive suspension was granted due to the imminent danger posed to the environment.
The federal government had shielded itself behind a decree published in Nov. 2021 that designated the project as a matter of "national security" to speed up its development, a move that critics felt may have been designed to circumvent arduous permitting procedures. Despite this decree, Novelo ordered that the Mayan Train must follow these legal procedures.
It was not until May 18, three months after the works began, that FONATUR, the federal agency in charge of building the entire Mayan Train, presented the EIA for Section 5 South. The project will subsequently be evaluated by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).
President López Obrador assured that FONATUR will continue its efforts. "In any case, we are going to comply legally and they will not be able to stop us. Private interests are not going to impose themselves above the public interest. This used to be the case but it will no longer occur,” he said. The Mayan Train is one of president López Obrador star infrastructure projects. Following the completion of AIFA, he has pushed his administration to assure the train’s inauguration prior to the end of his term.
FONATUR responded to the judge's decision in a statement entitled "Work on the Mayan Train will continue for the pride of Mexico’s people.” The institution affirms that "there are sufficient elements for the EIA on section 5 South to be authorized, which in due time will allow overcoming the 'definitive' suspension granted by the judge.” FONATUR said that the environmental impact study prepared by the Institute of Ecology of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) "contemplates possible impacts" the works may have on the ecosystem, but also features "abundant mitigation actions in favor of the environment,” such as the creation of wildlife crossings. These actions "will be added to measures already underway, such as the reforestation of the southeast with almost 500 million trees and the strengthening of natural area.” No further details are provided.
Section 5 of the Mayan Train gathers four other provisional suspension orders from various lawsuits filed by DMAS, the organization Litigio Estratégico and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA). The recent ruling sets a precedent for the future decision similar these injunctions, which will also be resolved by Judge Novelo.