Why We Oppose the Mayan Train

by Gilberto López y Rivas

On April 19, a letter entitled “Why We Oppose the Mayan Train” was delivered to the President of Mexico, signed by more than 300 researchers from various disciplines, who describe themselves like this: “We are not pseudo-scientists, we are not conservatives, we are not adversaries. We are academics with field and desk work, who have a deep commitment to the good of Mexico, and we have demonstrated this for decades, throughout which time we have pointed out the problems caused by government programs, corporate projects, and unsustainable initiatives of any origin (https://geopolitica.iiec.unam.mx/node/1302).

It reminds the president that since the announcement of the Mayan Train project, and a few days before he took office, a respectful letter was sent to him in which the reasons why the project should not be carried out were stated, with arguments and data from both scientific studies and popular wisdom. In this letter, rejected by the Federal Executive, they insisted on a condition that was violated with the mega project: the principle of prior, free, informed, culturally appropriate consultation, as required by Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The experts in whom the people of Mexico have invested considerable resources to generate knowledge about the nation’s biocultural heritage were not consulted either. Currently, the construction of the Mayan Train is already affecting the ways of life, biodiversity, sustainability, environmental quality, and the human and existential rights of the peoples and communities that inhabit the entire region that the project intends to benefit.

In light of the severity and irreversibility of the damages, and the lack of response to their concerns, the signatories state their reasons for opposing the Mayan Train, which I summarize below:

1) The project’s ideals of progress, profitability and urbanization violate the Mayan people’s way of life, customs, worldviews, production and community subsistence.

2) The buildings, remains and archaeological sites will be partially destroyed and converted into tourist attraction merchandise, in the context of a reality marked by population displacement, land speculation and community disintegration.

3) The Yucatan Peninsula is a platform that is the result of the chemical weathering of sedimentary limestone rocks, which gives the soil a brittle and fragile condition, unsuitable to support the weight of fast and heavy trains.

4) This soil has determined the creation of a complex subway hydrological system that houses one of the most important aquifers in Mexico, today affected by the Mayan Train.

5) Excessive use and contamination of groundwater, inorganic waste, urbanization and productive activities put the peninsula’s aquifer at risk.

6) The world’s largest subway cave and river system, its fauna and geological information are also at risk.

7) The project threatens biocultural wealth of planetary relevance: bacterial reefs, bat caves that are pest controllers, seed dispersers and pollinators, the jaguar, the peccary and countless species of fish, birds and insects.

8) The ecosystems in which 54 percent of the country’s mangroves are located are at risk.

9) Damage to ecosystems increases the population’s vulnerability to climate change.

10) In recent decades, coral cover has decreased dramatically to less than 10 percent of its potential area. As tourism increases, these conditions will worsen.

11) Laguna Bacalar, has been severely affected by tourism, deforestation, and the use of chemical fertilizers.

12) Impact on the biocultural heritage of the communities, with modes of appropriation that disrupt the already fragile ecological balance and sustainability.

13) Mass migration, population growth, cattle ranching, extensive agriculture, agribusiness and large-scale tourism development will impact tropical forests.

14) Train infrastructure impedes the natural and indispensable mobility of species.

15) Mass tourism will affect lifestyles, sanitary conditions, garbage generation, water consumption and contamination.

16) Calakmul is expected to receive 3 million tourists, instead of the current 40 thousand.

17) Real estate and urbanization projects, which cause environmental impoverishment.

18) With Cancun as a test case, an increase in violence, drug trafficking and human trafficking is predicted.

19)A lack of planning, discussion and evaluation that is required by law.

20) Work without complying with ILO Convention 169, without soil mechanics studies, without environmental impact statements. All this, in a context of militarization and transfer of the work to the military.

This article was published in La Jornada on April 29, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/04/29/opinion/016a1pol
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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