The construction of section 5 of the Mayan train has met with resistance from environmental organizations, who warned of the presence of a 'hidden cenote', the 'Yorogana' cave, which would be buried by the construction work.
Ainat Gaia, human rights defender and speleologist -specialists who study natural cavities in the subsoil-, announced the discovery of this 'hidden cenote' in section 5 south of the Tren Maya; the area has already been located and mapped by specialists from Cenotes Urbanos, and the organization 'Selvame del Tren' has been informed.
The specialists also found a sinkhole, a depression 15 to 20 meters high, as well as stairs and a Mayan altar, all in an area they have named 'The great house of the turtles' or 'U noj najil áako'ob' in Mayan. They warn that the train cannot pass over this 'pothole' and wonder if they are going to "fill it in".
Why are cenotes important?
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Secretary of Urban Development and Environment of Yucatan (Seduma) warn that cenotes are vital because they are an ecosystem of their own. These are formed during a process that takes thousands of years, since the terrain - of a karstic type - absorbs large quantities of water and filters into the subsoil, forming caves or pools.
As a unique ecosystem, cenotes are home to endemic species, which have adapted to such conditions for thousands of years, so the destruction of this habitat would mean the loss of flora and fauna. In addition, they are freshwater reserves and, in some cases, indispensable for human activities.
What is section 5 of the Mayan Train?
One of the great works of the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is the Mayan Train, a means of tourist and commercial transportation that will cover 1,500 kilometers in five states: Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, in the latter of which section 5 is being built.
Section 5 of the Mayan Train will have an extension of 49.8 kilometers and will run from Tulum Airport to Cancun Airport; cenotes have been found along the route. It will have five stations: Cancun Airport, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Tulum Airport, in addition to stops at Xcaret, Puerto Aventuras, and Akumal.
Keys to understanding the conflict in Section 5
Since April 18, construction work on Section 5 of the Tren Maya, one of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's flagship projects, has been halted. What's going on? Of the seven sections to be built, Section 5 of the Mayan Train covers a distance of 121 kilometers, according to the National Fund for Tourism Development (Fonatur), from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo, but the route of this section has been severely criticized due to the environmental impact it would cause in the area.
Construction of Section 5 halted
After several unsuccessful appeals, on April 18 the First District Court of Yucatán granted a provisional suspension of the construction of Section 5. The suspension was granted because the section that runs from Playa del Carmen to Tulum does not have an environmental impact authorization. The resolution comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by a group of divers against the Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo, the Secretaría de Desarrollo Agrario, Territorial y Urbano and the Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional for the construction of said section. The court recognized that the divers have a legitimate and suspension interest and that the measure does not contravene public interest and public order.
President López Obrador vs. environmentalists and artists
After the suspension of the works was granted and the works were stopped, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador assured that there is a political campaign against the 4T mega project financed by international organizations and Mexican businessmen. Following these accusations, environmentalists, activists, and a few artists asked to speak with López Obrador to show him that no one was financing them and, on the contrary, to explain to him the reasons why the construction of the section should not continue.
For his part, the President invited celebrities, including Eugenio Derbez and Rubén Albarrán, to the National Palace to speak out against the Mayan Train. However, the meeting between the President and the artists did not materialize, as days later the Mexican Government informed through a communiqué that the artists refused to attend, and therefore the meeting would be canceled. In response, environmentalists assured that the only one who refused to attend was the actor and comedian Eugenio Derbez since they delivered a list of 10 people -among experts and activists- who would come to the site to talk to the President.
Government contests suspension of works
On Monday, the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur), responsible for the work of the Mayan Train, filed a complaint appeal against the provisional suspension of the works of Section 5. "It files a complaint appeal against the order of April 12 of this year, in which it was provided concerning the provisional suspension of the acts claimed in the Amparo lawsuit", reads the agreement. Last Friday, the incidental hearing scheduled for April 22 was postponed and rescheduled for next Friday, May 13, so both the Government and the environmentalists are waiting for the results and the future of a said section of one of the flagship works of the 4T.
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