Tren Maya Construction Damages Cenotes and Caves South of Cancún

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Risking arrest by the military, a group of speleologists made their way into cenotes and caves damaged by the construction of Tren Maya. Photo: Courtesy  

To speed up construction, engineers in charge of Route 5 of the Tren Maya resorted to pouring cement into several cenotes and caves, according to several reputable news sources, including El Financiero

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. 

On Route 5, between Cancún and Tulum, construction is tremendously difficult given the thousands of cenotes and caves believed to be in the region.

“This is simply one of the worst places on earth where you could build a train track. It is simply not viable. Federal authorities need to understand that it’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact,” said speleologist Guillermo DChristy.

An aerial photograph shows a cenote covered by cement and rubble to make way for the Tren Maya. Photo: Courtesy @Selvamedeltren

To complicate things further, several caves and cenotes in question also house some of the oldest human remains and archaeological artifacts known to the region. 

Caves have long been a fact of life in this region of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, where even highways have proven unviable along several coast sections and forced to further inland. 

Several sections of roads and highways near Quintana Roo’s coast have collapsed into underground caves over the past few years. Photo: Courtesy

Geologists and environmentalists have warned about this problem for years but say they have been ignored at every turn.

Earlier: What We Saw On The Tren Maya From Mérida to Palenque

Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who spearheaded and defends the Tren Maya project, insists that the negative environmental impact has been overblown by conservative voices who want to see the project fail.

“Those who criticize the project are all just conservatives who do not share our vision for the nation. I don’t have time for that,” said the president during a press conference yesterday. 

Environmentalist groups point out that no feasibility study was ever conducted and that the rail line’s path has been dictated primarily by cost-saving measures.

The need to build several bridges and install large underground pylons may be one of the project’s most expensive and potentially dangerous aspects.

“The president straight up lied. This is going to be such a mess, and so much will be lost. …  it is nothing short of criminal,” said Greenpeace México. 

Mexico’s federal government has announced that Section 5 of the Mayan will include large bridges and overpasses designed to avoid the caving-in of cenotes. However, environmental impacts aside, critics worry they will not work in the long run. Photo: Courtesy

Because the Tren Maya has been declared a national security project, all legal rulings compelling construction to be stopped by any court have no legal consequence.

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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