Scientists express “Resounding No” to the Mayan Train in the jungles of Calakmul

The Mayan Train worries because it can cause deforestation of the last rainforests of Mexico; modify rainfall cycles in areas where there are no surface rivers; the loss of recharge capacity of aquifers in a region of porous soils, and the contamination of water by waste from new cities.

The Calakmul jungle measures one million 400 thousand hectares. It is 10 times the size of Mexico City.

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Behind the Mayan Train, the development of the last tropical vegetation cover reserves in Mexico is coming. New cities, displacement of the original settlers, intensive use of water and soil, in addition to radical changes in temperature and in the rain cycles. These are some of the transformations that biologists of the Center for Scientific Research of Yucatan (CICY) and the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY), based on data and evaluations made by more than 240 researchers from different institutions.

Among all that can be argued about the train is a fact that stands out: the researchers express a “no resounding” to the train impacting the best-preserved rainforest in North America: Calakmul, in Campeche. This should not happen, in any way, warn scientists consulted by the Chronicle .

The adverse effects expected on ecosystems are not abstract assumptions. They are based on research that analyzes wild populations of plants on land near and far from urbanization, carried out for more than ten years in the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as information documented by researchers Casandra Reyes García, Celene Espadas Manrique and Manuela Tamayo Chim, from the CICY Natural Resources Unit; together with Alejandra García Quintanilla, from the Social Sciences Unit of the UADY.

Doctors Casandra and Celene gave an interview to the Academy section of this newspaper and explained that in addition to the Mayan Train, other megaprojects such as the real estate and tourism boom , as well as the growing boom of pig and poultry farms, soy plantations, and Also, although it sounds paradoxical, large clean energy projects, such as wind and solar farms, are affecting the ecosystems of this region.

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WHY ARE BIOLOGISTS SO CONCERNED? With scientific data, these researchers posed and answered a question: “The Mayan Train, why are biologists so worried?” The answer is like a root from which numerous outbreaks come out: the train worries because it can cause deforestation of the last rainforests of Mexico; modify rainfall cycles in areas where there are no surface rivers; generate the loss of recharge capacity of aquifers in a region of porous soils, and pollute water by waste from new cities.

The list of alarm signals extends to configure a scenario that can leave a negative balance for future generations: an ecological collapse or irreversible loss of ecosystems. The cause: a disarticulated policy that does not appreciate the way in which Mayan communities depend on the sustainable use of forests, through agriculture and beekeeping.

“A strategic environmental assessment is needed.” Megaprojects end up eating in the jungle. We have seen it for more than ten years in the Mayan Riviera. New cities are formed and the least benefited are the local inhabitants, ”says Casandra Reyes, who adds that to validate the Mayan Train project, a very short public consultation has been made within the communities.

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In turn, Celene Espadas asks to focus attention on the water resources of this region, since “the recharge of the Yucatan Peninsula aquifer depends on rainfall, and rainfall depends on large areas of a forest; This environmental service cannot be compensated with vegetation spots that the project contemplates. Also, the loss of vegetation would affect the diversity of flora and fauna and would have repercussions in the primary sector; agricultural and beekeeping activities could be affected, as pollinators will lose extension of vegetation cover and variety of plants. ”

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CICY is one of the 27 Public Research Centers of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) and its researchers speak with the authority that gives them time, for example, the observation for 10 years of what has happened in polygons or land areas located in different ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, near and far from the cities.

“It is no secret to anyone that Mérida is the city that has grown the most in this region in recent years, and is already a red focus of water pollution and deforestation of the forests that surround it. That could be repeated with new development poles, ”says Reyes García.

COLLAPSE IN CALAKMUL. On February 5 of this year, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, director of the National Fund for Tourism Promotion (FONATUR), which is an instrument of the government of the Republic to promote tourism investment in the country said, about those who oppose the project of the Mayan train:

“It is very easy to say suddenly that there is no development. We cannot be extremely conservative when we have so much misery; We have to create development and development is going to have environmental effects, obviously. But first people go. We won nothing as a country by having fat jaguars and famished children; There has to be a balance. Yes, there must be well-eaten jaguars, but with robust and educated and trained children. That is the subject: many times it will involve affecting the environment because we remedy the effects … What is the reason that an ecology saint finally wants to stop it? I do not understand it unless it is of interest. ”

Based on these statements, the CICY and UADY scientists considered it much more important to disseminate the reasons why researchers are concerned about the impact that the Mayan Train may have on the Mexican southeast jungle and the consequences of this on the everyone’s well-being

In an article published in the month of June, in the magazine  From the herbarium , of the CICY, the group of researchers integrated by Reyes García, Espadas Manrique, García Quintanilla, and Tamayo Chim clearly explained that their concern is that when the train enters the train Reserve the Calakmul Biosphere and give it connectivity with the mass tourism of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, this may lead to an ecological collapse.

“An ecological collapse is defined as a situation where the ecosystem undergoes a series of irreversible changes that affect a large part of its organisms and results in mass extinction. This ecological collapse not only corresponds to the flora and fauna of the place but also has a direct impact on all living beings, including humans, who benefit from the services provided by the jungle. It is these services that have not been valued in current Western societies and that need to be visible and indicated before statements such as the one cited above, ”says the article signed by the four scientists residing in the Yucatan Peninsula.

WATER AND SOIL. It is very important to clarify that not the entire area where the Mayan Train route will pass is a conservation zone, in fact, most of the Yucatan Peninsula is dedicated to agricultural or forestry uses. In these cases, it is important to note that many Mayan communities have learned to make sustainable use of ecosystems because, as Dr. Casandra Reyes indicates, the Mayan communities that inhabit these jungles practice a system of exploitation, such as Roza, tomb, and burning, which has survived since before the Spanish conquest.

“Since the soil in the Peninsula is not very rich, the nutrients they use for agriculture come from the materials generated by the forest and the jungle. We are not asking that nothing be touched, that is a false dilemma, what we argue is that communities are allowed to continue taking advantage of their resources as they have done. And if they can be supported, it must be done so that they have better work organizations or in improving processes, such as the packaging, labeling, and export of honey, to which thousands of families are dedicated, ”explains Reyes García who emphasizes that it is not to touch the jungle but, on the contrary, not to take away the jungle from those who are already using it in low impact forms.

Returning to the issue of the possible impact of infrastructure megaprojects on it, soil and water, Dr. Reyes asks people to remember that the characteristics of the soil and rock of the Yucatan Peninsula favor that rainwater infiltrates rapidly, but also everything that pours on the surface.

“The Peninsula’s aquifer is very important and is characterized by its porosity. This allows everything that falls on the surface to infiltrate, both clean rainwater and hydrocarbons, pesticides and city waste. Many sources of pollution have been identified in this region, there are no good drainage systems and septic tanks in cities do not meet the standards for proper filtration. To this, it should be added that in the large cities of the southeast only 60% of the wastewater from the farms is partially treated. This means that new settlements can generate more red foci of pollution and deterioration in water quality, as already observed in the city of Mérida, ”adds the expert consulted.

Dr. Celene Espadas also takes a few minutes to explain that the recharge of the Yucatan Peninsula aquifer depends on the rainiest areas located in the municipality of Calakmul, the Mayan Train project could not only affect vegetation and biodiversity – which is serious – but also cause changes in the rain cycles and with development poles, an increase in temperature.

“In a timely manner, we are concerned about the rain, which is one of the most important environmental services that the inhabitants of the southeast receive from the forests. We depend on groundwater and its quality, which is subject to human activities carried out in this region, ”Espadas Manrique.

In each statement, a common idea is presented: the problem is not only the Mayan Train but the disorderly urbanization that can accompany that project and that was already seen in other government plans for the development of areas, such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

“What we biologists say is a ‘no resounding’ to touch the rainforest of Calakmul because this peninsula depends on its vegetation, the rains, and its temperature-regulating effect. Experiments of several years have shown that trees reduce up to 10 degrees Celcius the temperature where they are present. If this damping effect is broken, we will have effects on ecosystems, production systems and the quality of life of communities, ”concludes Celene Espadas.


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