Environmentalists protested the Maya Train project in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, saying it will devastate the area’s ancient underwater caves and wildlife.
The protesters gathered outside the Dama Blanca cenote, an underwater cave through which the train route will pass, holding banners that read ‘Water is not for sale’, ‘Ecocide’, and ‘Save me from the train’.
They accused the government of planning to fill the cenote with cement during the train’s construction, which would cause the death of bat and fish colonies inside the cave.
“If they fill up the Dama Blanca (cenote), all of the bat and fish colonies inside it will die. All the life that developed inside it will die. A window for all the animals living in the jungle to drink water will be destroyed.” environmentalist Guillermo Christy said.
In 2022, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised that cenotes would not be affected during the train route’s construction. However, experts and locals fear that the project involves destroying natural areas and displacing indigenous Mayan and rural communities.
The Maya Train is one of Lopez Obrador’s key projects, which his government argues will help bring economic growth: the 1,470 km (910 miles) of rail is set to carry diesel and electric trains through the jungle and connect Mexico’s top tourist destination Cancun to the ancient Mayan temples of Chichen Itza and Palenque.