Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has failed in an ambitious plan to build a tourist train that will connect the country’s southern Yucatán peninsula.
On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on part of the project, known as the Maya Train, saying the plans currently do not comply with “environmental impact assessment procedures.”
The decision follows a lawsuit by activists who said they were concerned that the 60-kilometer section of the train that will connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum will negatively affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes. known as cenotes.
The original plan for the disputed section called for a flyover over the highway, but earlier this year the route was changed to pass through the jungle at ground level.
A federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Advocacy for a Healthy Environment. The group said in a statement that authorities had not conducted the necessary environmental impact studies prior to construction on the site.
López Obrador announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction to begin in 2020. The approximately 1,500 km (930 mi) freight and passenger rail loop was presented as the cornerstone of a broader plan to develop poorer states and outlying cities in an area of approximately 181,000 people. km² (70,000 sq mi) of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The railroad is to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, and authorities aim to complete the project by the end of 2023. The cost of the plan is estimated at about $16 billion.
The project has divided communities across the region, with some hailing the economic development and connectivity it will bring. Others, including some local indigenous communities, have spoken out against the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migration routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but also damage centuries-old Maya archaeological sites.
The National Tourism Promotion Foundation, the government agency overseeing the project, said it expects to “get over” the latter issue and that work should continue after the environmental impact report is completed. It states that the Ministry of the Environment is currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.
For his part, López Obrador insisted that the railroad would not have a significant environmental impact and accused the activists of being infiltrated by “imposters”.