Judge halts work on Mexico president's contentious tourist train

·1-min read
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's flagship tourist train project in the Yucatan peninsula has met opposition from environmentalists and indigenous communities (AFP/Pedro PARDO) (Pedro PARDO)

A Mexican judge has suspended construction of part of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's flagship tourist train project in the Yucatan peninsula due to a lack of environmental impact studies.

The Mayan Train, a roughly 1,500-kilometer (950 mile) rail loop linking popular Caribbean beach resorts and archeological ruins, has met with opposition from environmentalists and indigenous communities.

A court in the southeastern state of Yucatan on Monday ordered the suspension of "works related to its construction, infrastructure... or destruction of biodiversity."

The halt to work between the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum is temporary, pending resolution of an injunction sought by scuba divers, who are concerned about the impact on water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified to go through jungle at ground level.

The change prompted protests from environmental groups, who complained that the line will now pass over underground rivers and cenotes connected to a giant aquifer under the jungle.

Often filled with stunning emerald or turquoise waters illuminated by a shaft of light from above, the sinkholes are a major attraction for tourists and a source of drinking water for indigenous communities.

Lopez Obrador on Tuesday dismissed the criticism of his signature project, which is supported by some residents as a potential source of jobs and economic prosperity.

"There are more and more environmentalists who didn't exist before," the president told reporters.

"We're going to wait to see what they're claiming now and find a way to defend ourselves legally," he said.

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