A Mexican court ruling that indefinitely suspended construction of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s flagship “Mayan Train” rail project over environmental concerns was welcomed by national and international activists on Monday, May 31st.
The 1,470-km (910-mile) railway project, which has been trumpeted by Lopez Obrador as a cornerstone of his plans to develop the country’s poorer southern states, aims to link tourist hot spots and spur development on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The court ruling states that Mexico’s National Tourism Promotion Fund’s (Fonatur) plans for the railway do “not comply with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation,” according to a statement from Defending the Right to a Safe Environment (DMAS), an environmentalist group who argue the project is causing deforestation and wildlife disruption.
The legal dispute is centered on the 121-km (75-mile) “section 5” of the project, connecting the resort cities of Cancun and Tulum in Quintana Roo state, where construction was initially suspended in April over a lack of environmental permits.
Fonatur said in a statement on Monday that it was confident it could “overcome” the indefinite suspension, noting the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the multi-billion dollar railway.
The court’s ban on further construction stands “only until the project’s Environmental Impact Statement…is fully resolved,” said Fonatur.
Nonetheless, the ruling is a setback for Lopez Obrador, who has pledged to complete the railway by the end of 2023 and says the railway has created 105,000 jobs.
The government recently also clashed with environmentalists over a failed electricity reform bill, which would have increased investment in fossil fuels.