Mexico City — The United Nations expressed its support Monday for the Mayan Train, one of Mexico’s pet infrastructure projects.
But UN officials also called for “a comprehensive plan” to guarantee sustainable development and respect to indigenous communities.
After inaugurating World Habitat Day in Mexico City, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the UN-Habitat, said the agency is willing to work with the federal administration on the Mayan Train, which will roll through Yucatan, Tabasco, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Campeche.
“We would like to see a holistic plan in the government, which could be a catalyst for development and, in this case, for sustainable development,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, who is also the UN’s deputy general secretary.
Following through on one of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s most ambitious promises, the Mayan Train is a freight, tourist and passenger transportation system that will cross the Mexican southeast. The project has generated pushback by indigenous communities that consider the environment and local traditions to be under threat.
Although the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern a month ago about the consultations with Mexican indigenous peoples “that do not meet international standards,” the UN directive now indicated that they will accompany the federal government in the project.
“We should consider the economic, environmental, social, physical and humanitarian aspect,” said Mohd Sharif.
Eduardo López Moreno, head of the UN-Habitat in Mexico, explained that studies have been conducted on the Mayan Train and the territory and vowed to cooperate with the federal government to ensure that the environment, local economy and community values are protected.
Rogelio Jiménez Pons, director of the National Fund for Tourism Promotion (Fonatur), defended the Mayan Train as a project that “represents” the 2030 UN sustainable development goals “to leave no one behind.”
The UN chose Mexico City this year as the venue for World Habitat Day, which was held at the National Museum of Anthropology.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif highlighted inequality and waste generation as the most relevant challenges for UN-Habitat. She reported that Mexican cities generate 10,000 million tons of garbage a year, of which only 20% are recycled.
She urged cities to join the #WasteWiseCities project while signing a related agreement with the government of Mexico City and mayors of municipalities such as Guadalajara, Reynosa and San Luis Potosí.