A Mexican judge has indefinitely suspended construction of part of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s flagship tourist train project in the Yucatan peninsula on environmental grounds, campaigners said Monday.
The ruling follows a legal challenge brought by opponents, including scuba divers, who are concerned about the impact of the Mayan Train on wildlife, caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.
The indefinite halt to work on the 60-kilometer (37-mile) section between the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum goes a step further than a provisional suspension order issued in April.
The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment.
Authorities were found to have failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section, one of several being built by the military, it said in a statement.
The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, said that it expected the work to be allowed to continue after the environmental impact statement is finalized.
It said the document would contain “numerous mitigation actions in favor of the environment.”
Lopez Obrador hopes to inaugurate the roughly 1,500-kilometer (950 mile) rail loop linking popular Caribbean beach resorts and archeological ruins by the end of 2023.
The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.
Opponents fear that the construction will cause irreparable damage to a subterranean network of caves, rivers and freshwater sinkholes connected to the Caribbean Sea.
Lopez Obrador has insisted the railroad will not affect the cenotes and alleged that environmentalists have been infiltrated by “impostors.”