Irreversible Environmental Damage To Cenotes Confirmed on Tren Maya Route

On Route 5, between Cancún and Tulum, construction is tremendously difficult given the thousands of cenotes and caves in the region. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Mexico’s environmental protection agency, PROFEPA, confirmed serious damage to five cenotes in the path of the Tren Maya.

It occurred when cement was poured into several cenotes and caves, according to several news sources, including El Universal

There have also been confirmed reports of pylons being placed deep into cenotes and caves, irrevocably altering geological features that took millions of years to form.

The report also cites additional damage to the aquifer caused by the oxidation of the pylons, as well as other metallic support structures.

The cenotes and caves confirmed to have been damaged include Garra del Jaguar, Oppenheimer, Manitas, and Dos Balas — and experts suggest several others have likely also been severely compromised. Photo: Courtesy

At least one of these caves has reportedly collapsed under the weight of construction equipment. 

Pylons and cement were employed to avoid cave-ins along the Tren Maya’s Route 5, which runs from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, across a particularly geologically complex region. 

But despite the reinforced steel and concrete, environmentalists argue that cave-ins are a real possibility, especially near Tulum where a particularly large number of unregistered cave networks sit below an extremely porous limestone foundation.

Earlier: New Bridge Delays Tren Maya Completion Date

Evidence collected by PROFEPA will be presented in court this week. However, because the Maya Train has been declared a national security project, it is unlikely that any legal injunction will halt construction. 

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that he will launch an investigation and attempt to undo the environmental damage. 

“The problem is that this is not something you can fix. The damage has been done. If a private person or company had been responsible, you can bet they would already be in jail,” said a biologist and speleologist, Roberto Rojo. 

The report has sparked outrage among residents of the area, many of whom rely on water from the region’s underground aquifer for their daily use. 

“Many of us have been supportive of the Tren Maya and the president in the past, but this has turned into a real nightmare. The authorities need to stop and think about the repercussions of their actions and stop this insanity,” said resident Patricia Godínez.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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