Mexico’s ambitious Maya Train project, hailed by the government as an economic boon, is sparking intense scrutiny from environmentalists. They warn of irreversible damage to the region’s ancient caves, part of a unique and delicate ecosystem.

The so-called Tren Maya, a 1,554 kilometers (965 miles) railway project on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is expected to generate over 140,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region according to the government. However, environmental groups have warned of substantial deforestation, with the Maya Forest reported to be 6,000 hectares smaller due to the train’s construction.

Deforestation due to Maya train project

These concerns are not just restricted to deforestation. The project is also feared to disrupt wildlife routes and attract excessive development to fragile ecosystems. The train is set to pass through long stretches of jungle, leading to habitat fragmentation, which could have severe adverse impacts on protected species.

One of the most alarming concerns raised by environmentalists is the potential damage to ancient caves in the region. The construction traverses unparalleled natural habitats, including a vast network of caves formed over millennia in the peninsula’s limestone. These caves, rich in stalagmites and stalactites, are not just natural wonders but also hold significant bio-cultural value.

Guillermo D’Christy, a water expert, recently examined the impact of construction within these caves. Amidst the ancient formations, he observed the newly installed concrete and steel foundations—interventions that he believes pose a significant threat to the structural integrity of the caves.

“We are putting at risk a very important bio-cultural heritage for Mexico, and for humanity,” said D’Christy. He said he fears that the vibrations of the construction machines and trains will damage the roofs of the caves. “This ceiling is going to gradually become thinner and thinner. It is falling. It is collapsing,” he warned.

The government has conducted an environmental impact study, acknowledging the risk of collapse but claimed it had been considered in the project’s engineering. They said, the project’s design includes measures to mitigate the risk of cave collapses and promises a prevention program. However, the specifics of these measures and their effectiveness remain a point of contention among conservationists.

Despite these warnings, the Maya Train project continues to move forward. The Mexican government insists that the economic benefits outweigh the environmental costs. However, as the train pulls ahead of schedule, the voices of environmentalists and indigenous communities grow louder, calling for greater protection of Mexico’s natural heritage and ancient cultural sites.

Image Source: Matador Network