The Inauguration of the Mayan Train is celebrated

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MÉXICO » News » December 2023 » The Inauguration of the Mayan Train is celebrated

Published by @AMiMeDicenMune on December 15, 2023

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The ongoing construction of the Maya Train represents a complex endeavor unfolding in two realms – one of fantasy and the other of harsh reality. In the realm of fantasy, it symbolizes progress and social justice, while in the realm of reality, it embodies devastation and colonialism. Yet, the crux of the Maya Train conundrum lies in its universal image of shooting in the dark. Ironically, the central issue isn’t the train itself or even the Mayan communities it claims to benefit.

Originating as a promise to deliver what the southeastern regions of Mexico had been denied for generations, the Maya Train project was conceived to address demands for increased connectivity. Residents in the southeast sought improved infrastructure to attract investments and spur progress in an area oscillating between obscene excess and cruel neglect. In response, the fourth transformation administration proposed the construction of the Maya Train, designed to traverse the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. Though it forms a circular route starting and ending in Palenque, the train aims to serve three distinct purposes: freight transport, concession for a tourist train, and passenger transport for local communities.

The the train seeks to address three distinct challenges:

  1. Freight Transport: The train is envisioned to supply the entire peninsula with goods, filling the void created by a region primarily focused on catering to the tourism industry. Although there is currently no train causing environmental harm, the southern roads are congested with trailers transporting essential supplies.

  2. Tourism Benefit Redistribution: The plan involves redistributing tourism-derived income so that the wealth flowing into cities like Cancún, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen trickles into other states on the peninsula. This strategy aims to entice national and international tourists to explore destinations beyond the popular ones, fostering economic development in places like Calakmul, Chichén Itzá, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Escárcega, and Palenque.

  3. Local Connectivity: The third goal is to enable residents of the peninsula to commute between cities swiftly and affordably. The vision is for individuals in places like Felipe Carrillo Puerto or Chetumal to work in tourist hubs such as Cancún, Tulum, and Huéscar, utilizing a modern and, as promised by the administration, cost-effective mode of transportation.

However, the substantial financial burden of the Maya Train, estimated at around 130 to 150 billion pesos (and possibly more due to a lack of transparency), raises concerns among citizens. The project, while aiming to address various issues in the southeast, including demographic explosions, lacks clarity. It appears the government envisions train stations as developmental hubs to centralize population and foster progress, but the construction is not only funded by taxpayers’ billions but also relies on good intentions. The predicament arises when these good intentions fail to align with reality, turning into capricious decisions supported by the ignorance and arrogance inherent in various historical follies.

In Mexico, every public project must be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment (EIA). This serves to understand the ecological damage a project may cause, allowing for mitigation measures. Moreover, it helps assess whether the devastation is justifiable for the population, the state, and the ecosystem. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources revealed that the ambitious Maya Train project lacks the required environmental impact permits and land use changes in areas designated as forests. Despite FONATUR’s prior knowledge of the environmental repercussions, the project commenced without the necessary executive project or environmental impact assessments.

Disregarding legal mandates, the Maya Train construction started without EIAs, rendering the whole project susceptible to environmental and ecological challenges. The government, in its arrogance, seems to believe that issues like water contamination, soil disruption, and ecological imbalances can be rectified by merely planting trees. However, the Sembrando Vida program, touted as an environmental initiative, has been shown to incentivize deforestation, raising concerns about its effectiveness.

The government’s demagoguery extends to exploiting the traditions and beliefs of indigenous communities for symbolic ceremonies, with little regard for the sanctity of their sacred sites. This insensitivity perpetuates a model of progress centered around the exploitation of natural resources and the people themselves, contradicting the narrative of social justice for indigenous communities.

While the administration presents the Maya Train as a solution for progress and social justice in the Yucatán Peninsula, many communities fear that the government, under the guise of progress, aims to exploit their treasured land. The concern revolves around the potential transformation of the region into various versions of Cancún, bringing projects like restaurants, nightclubs, and tourist-centric services, often leading to concerns about social issues such as prostitution.

The historical discontent of indigenous communities stems from the consistent lack of investment in the southeast for diverse industries, talent development, and cultural preservation. Instead, a pattern persists where the focus is solely on increasing the exploitation of natural resources, exacerbating the wear and tear on protected areas.

In areas lacking essential infrastructure like drainage and water treatment, funds are allocated to boost tourist influx instead of addressing the basic needs of the residents. This imbalance poses environmental risks, as tourist-generated waste inevitably ends up impacting the region’s natural treasures.

A comprehensive environmental impact assessment could have forewarned the federal government about the complications and challenges of increasing human traffic in territories dependent on preserving diverse ecosystems. However, the administration prioritizes its leader’s whims over planning, evident in the lack of attention to the potential environmental devastation caused by the Maya Train.

Despite numerous testimonials from Mayan communities and the ecological concerns raised, the government proceeds with the Maya Train construction, propelled by the whims of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. A clash of ideologies becomes apparent when indigenous communities, prioritizing the conservation of their legacy, collide with a government determined to impose its vision of progress on what it perceives as an untapped gem.

As legal battles emerge, a federal judge grants the first indefinite suspension of the Maya Train’s Tramo 5 construction, citing the absence of an environmental impact assessment. This legal dispute underscores the administration’s tendency to prioritize personal urgencies over legal compliance, raising questions about its commitment to the rule of law.

The Maya Train project, initially hailed as a transformative initiative for the country’s southeast, now stands as a symbol of hasty decision-making, inadequate planning, and potential environmental catastrophe. López Obrador’s government, veering away from the principles of social, economic, technical, and ecological responsibility, seems more inclined towards prioritizing immediate political gains rather than ensuring the long-term well-being of the nation.

The parallels between the Maya Train project and the troubled history of Line 12 of the metro in Mexico City are unsettling. Both initiatives lack the thorough planning and consideration needed for such large-scale projects, leading to grave consequences that extend beyond immediate concerns.

The Maya Train’s critics argue that it epitomizes the administration’s persistent reliance on politically motivated, rushed projects, raising questions about the government’s true intent and the potential socio-ecological impact of such endeavors. The lack of transparent planning, coupled with the absence of comprehensive impact assessments, fuels skepticism about the administration’s commitment to sustainable development and environmental stewardship.

The controversy surrounding the Maya Train extends beyond environmental concerns. Indigenous communities, initially hopeful for progress and social justice, now fear the imposition of a tourism-dependent model that exploits both natural resources and the local population. The promises of economic benefits and improved living conditions now seem hollow, as the government prioritizes tourism-centric development over investing in diverse industries, cultural preservation, and community empowerment.

Environmentalists and indigenous communities alike voice concerns about the project’s impact on ecosystems, including deforestation, contamination of subterranean rivers and cenotes, and threats to endemic species. Legal challenges result in the suspension of construction in some areas, as the government fails to present a credible environmental impact statement. The clash between the administration’s development agenda and the need for sustainable, ecologically responsible progress continues to play out on the stage of the Yucatán Peninsula.

As the Maya Train project unfolds, it becomes emblematic of the broader challenges faced by the Fourth Transformation in Mexico. Balancing the pursuit of progress with environmental stewardship proves to be a delicate dance, and the Maya Train’s journey reveals a pattern of rushed, politically motivated projects lacking in thorough planning. The risks associated with neglecting maintenance, coupled with environmental, technical, and social concerns, raise serious doubts about the project’s long-term success and its ability to deliver on its promises.

Amidst the criticisms and legal battles, the Maya Train stands as a testament to the administration’s resistance to change or correction. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s inclination to dismiss concerns as attacks on his transformative agenda highlights a troubling trend – an aversion to acknowledging faults and a preference for political loyalty over effective governance.

As the Maya Train hurtles through the Yucatán Peninsula, its impact on the environment and the socio-economic landscape remains a contentious issue. The unfolding saga of the Maya Train underscores the challenges inherent in pursuing progress while safeguarding the delicate balance of ecosystems and respecting the rights and aspirations of indigenous communities. The train’s tracks cut through a landscape marked by controversy, raising questions not just about its destination but also about the journey Mexico is willing to undertake in the name of progress.

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