The Maya Train’s development poles will destroy the richness, biodiversity and geomorphology of territories

maya trainBy: Yessica Morales

Ana Esther Ceceña, Coordinator of the Latin American Observatory of Geopolitics at the Institute for Economic Research, announced that given the Maya Train Comprehensive Development Project, the federal government proposes to reorder the productive, commercial, tourist and mobility activities in the 1,525 kilometers on which the tracks will run. The project proposes to generate 18 similar development poles with urbanization processes and generation of economic activities where the train stations are located, for the purpose of attracting the rural population to jobs, especially in the service sector.

The project comprises the area of the Yucatan Peninsula, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas where the southern oil basins are located, with 75.6 percent of the proven hydrocarbon reserves and 92 % of the total basic petrochemicals produced in the country, where the Dos Bocas refinery is being built.

The coordinator predicted that the freight train would transport hydrocarbons, minerals and food, principally for tourism and to promote it on a large scale, orienting economic activities to services.

Among these services is the production of foods with pork meat that the businessman Alfonso Romo produces in the vicinity of the ring of cenotes [1] and the Homún Wetland, recognized internationally for the species it contains and the at risk situation it presents. Ceceña pointed out that the production of food with pork meat represents the contamination and destruction of the big cenote inside the pig farm. There are no proposals for remediation and regulation within the project in cases like this, but rather, activities of this type are considered part of the development that is to be promoted. [Photo below is of a cenote in Homún.]


She pointed out that in Calakmul alone they predict an increase from the current 40,000 visits a year to 3 million, causing impacts on the environment, the archaeological wealth and local societies.

This morning, representatives of various civil society organizations, academics and campesinos of the Maya people, summoned by the National Indigenous Congress of the Yucatan Peninsula Region, participated in the “Forum in Defense of Life and Territory.”

They jointly declared their total rejection to construction of the project called the Maya Train and made it clear that they will not allow the consultation convoked by the federal government for August 14 and 15 to be carried out. “We consider that these megaprojects only intensify the dispossession of land, destruction of archaeological zones, the exploitation and enslavement of the Maya peoples who have always been seen as valuable objects for attracting tourism,” they pointed out.

Ceceña indicated that several promoters of the project point out that predatory processes are already present in the region and are caused by the residents’ poverty, for example: the Mennonite groups of the Ejido Paraíso in Bacalar, who cut down 3,000 hectares of jungle to plant soy, using agro-chemicals.

She added that these chemicals would directly affect plants and residents of the surrounding areas; they will be filtered towards the Yucatán Aquifer, having already adulterated the waters of the Bacalar Lagoon, thus making it sometimes lose the colors that make it unique in the world.

The coordinator said that every year tourist activity in Cancun contributes between 4 and 10 tourists per person, and generates an enormous quantity of non-organic waste, in addition to dumping its sewage on the Quintana Roo coasts; this has led to an extension of the tourist area towards Tulum and Bacalar inducing damage to reefs, destruction of wetlands and the privatization of the beaches.

These developments are risky and harmful, the highway that connects Cancun and Tulum just sunk because its weight finally overcame the support of the caverns or cenotes over which it was constructed. How will they be able to withstand a high-speed and heavy train that will multiply the vibrations, questioned the coordinator. From an environmental perspective, the type of train proposed and the route it would follow would cause a strong impact without any remedy in many cases.


Above Photo: The archaeological site of Tulum on the Caribbean Coast of Quintana Roo.

Even the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR, its Spanish acronym) presented confirmed that: Special attention should be paid at the moment of the project’s final design in this zone (the Chicxulub ring of cenotes). It is recommended carrying out exhaustive geophysical studies on the final route, in order to determine with precision the probable existence of underground caverns (and indicates that) more detailed geology studies are carried out, using all the tools that constitute a geological study at the project executive level.

Ceceña emphasized that the impact is multiplied with the construction of the 18 development poles, considering that urban centers are the largest emitters of pollutants.

They are also generators of non-degradable garbage and carbon dioxide emissions. According to calculations, there are currently 31 megacities on the planet that occupy “less that 0.5% of the Earth’s surface,” however, these “cities are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions and 65% of global energy consumption.”

Faced with the ecological catastrophe the planet is experiencing, she stressed that conservation of a jungle area like that of the Yucatan Peninsula is essential, since it’s part of the continent’s tropical biological complex.

On the other hand, the transit of species in the area feeds its versatility and the ability to continue harboring and generating endemic species that expand global biodiversity, but the train tracks will cut off passage and will cause a withdrawal of species due to the barrier effects, noise and vibration.

Added to that is the damage that the burned diesel would cause, which is the fuel selected for the operation of a transport that intends to be modernizing.

All this combined forms an environmental system of immense, but fragile value. It cannot be exploited without risks that, in this case, are even greater than those in other regions due to the peculiarity of its karst soil (calcareous and porous), which has high permeability and allows pollutants to pass quickly to the Aquifer.

She made visible that the weight of a fast train and the urbanizations that are planned, can tear some sections to pieces, thus the Environmental Impact Statement’s recommendation about the design; it would affect not only the environment but also the living conditions of the rural or semi-rural populations that would be attracted to the cities, where they would be able to aspire to precarious jobs a the expense of breaking the link to their community and campesino economies.

She recalled that the region of the Maya Train has the characteristic of being an important part of the seat of the Maya civilization; its inhabitants are the descendants of the builders of Tulum, Chichén Itzá, Edzná, Calakmul and other places that are now advertised as tourist attractions.

Said inhabitants coexist and are mixed with the populations that arrived with the Conquest or the area’s subsequent evolution, but have not lost their cultural identity, a territory of Mayas since at least the years 1000 to 800 BC.

Aguada Fénix

This is confirmed with the discovery of the Aguada Fénix archaeological site [above photo], the largest construction of the Mayas found so far and one that stands out for being a horizontal construction, the first of that kind that they have found.

Ceceña said that according to the discoverers, a building with those characteristics reveals community and e egalitarian organization of the place’s inhabitants, a valuable finding in the reconstruction of a history that could not be erased in the Conquest because it was buried or concealed by those who had a consciousness from a long time ago and the strength of their culture.

Aguada Fénix is in the path of the train. If it were not already discovered it could simply be destroyed to bring development to this southeast region. According to data from the INAH, there are 7,274 places within the territory that have archaeological vestiges already detected, which the Maya Train would encompass with its developments poles, the coordinator explained.

Lastly, she pointed out that destroying that richness, biodiversity and especially the geomorphology of these territories, would be an unforgivable attack and, of course, irreversible.


The above map shows the Aguada Fénix site as a red dot, near the border with Guatemala, Tabasco and Chiapas.

[1] Cenotes are natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater and are used as a water supply, especially on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Monday, August 2, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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