By: Gilberto López y Rivas
On April 19, a letter titled “Why we oppose the Maya Train” was delivered to the President of the Republic, signed by more than 300 researchers of diverse disciplines, who self-define as follows: “We are not pseudo-scientists, we are not conservatives, we are not adversaries. We are academics with field and cabinet work, who have a deep commitment to the good of Mexico, and we have demonstrated this for decades, throughout which we have pointed out the problems caused by government programs, corporate projects and unsustainable initiatives of any origin.”
The President is reminded that ever since the Maya Train project was announced, and a few days before taking office, a respectful letter was addressed to him in which the reasons why the work should not be carried out were stated, with arguments and data that come from both scientific studies and popular wisdom. In this letter, relegated for the federal Executive, a condition that would be violated by the mega-work was insisted on: the principle of prior, free, informed and culturally appropriate consultation required by Convention 169 on Indigenous Peoples and Tribes of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Nor were the “experts in whom the people of Mexico have invested considerable resources to generate knowledge about the nation’s biocultural heritage” consulted. Currently, construction work on the Maya Train already affects the ways of life, the biodiversity, sustainability, environmental quality and the human and existential rights of the peoples and communities that inhabit the entire region that said project seeks to benefit.”
Given the gravity and irreversibility of the damages and the lack of response to their indications, the signers explain their reasons for opposing the Maya Train, summarized as follows:
1) The project’s ideals of progress, profitability and urbanization violate the ways of life, customs, worldviews, community production and subsistence of the Maya peoples.
2) The archaeological buildings, vestiges and sites will be destroyed in part and converted into merchandise to attract tourists, within the framework of a reality marked by displacement of populations, land speculation and community disintegration.
3) The Yucatán Peninsula is a platform that originates from the chemical weathering of sedimentary limestone rocks, which give the soil a brittle and fragile condition, not adequate to support the weight of fast and heavy trains.
4) The soil has determined the creation of a complex subterranean hydrological system that houses one of the most important aquifers in Mexico, now affected by the Maya Train.
5) Excessive use and contamination of groundwater, inorganic waste, urbanization and productive activities put the peninsula’s aquifer at risk.
6) It also endangers the longest system of underground caves and rivers in the world, its fauna and geological information.
7) The project threatens biocultural wealth of planetary relevance: bacterial reefs, bat caves that are controllers of plagues, dispersers of seeds and pollinators, jaguars, the peccary and an countless species of fish, birds and insects.
8) The ecosystems in which 54 percent of the country’s mangroves are located are in danger.
9) Damage to the ecosystems reduces the population’s vulnerability to climate change.
10) In recent decades, coral cover has diminished dramatically to less than 10 percent of its potential size. As tourism increases, these conditions will worsen.
11) Laguna Bacalar has been gravely affected by tourism, deforestation and the use of chemical fertilizers.
12) Affectation of the biocultural heritage of the communities, with modes of appropriation that break the already fragile balance and ecological sustainability.
13) Mass migration, population growth, ranching, extensive agriculture, agri-business and large-scale tourism developments will impact tropical forests.
14) The train’s infrastructure impedes the natural and indispensable mobility of species.
15) Mass tourism will affect ways of life, sanitary conditions, generation of garbage, consumption and water pollution.
16) In Calakmul they foresee the arrival of 3 million tourists, instead of 40 thousand currently.
17) A real estate and urbanization project, which causes environmental impoverishment.
18) With Cancun as a witness case, an increase in violence, drug trafficking and human trafficking is predicted.
19) A lack of planning, discussion and evaluation that the law determines.
20) Work [being done] without complying with Convention 169 of the ILO, without studies of soil mechanics, without environmental impact statements. All that, in a context of militarization and delivery of the work to the military establishments.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, April 29, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/04/29/opinion/016a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee