A diver swims through the vast tunnels of Nohoch Nah Chich, part of the Sac Aktun cave system that has over 300 kilometres of surveyed tunnels
Photo credit: Natalie L Gibb, Under the Jungle
By Sienna Lakin
Mexico may see a devastating impact upon the precious Yucatan underwater cave sites and the Mayan Archeological sites in Sac Aktun if the government plans to go ahead with the construction of a train line known as “Tren Maya” along the coast of the Riveria Maya. The train line, which was announced in 2018, would improve connections within the regions and bolster economic growth. But the concerns to the environment outweigh these benefits infinitely.
News reports, campaigns, and scientists raise the likelihood of short-term environmental destruction of naturally protected sites, archaeological areas, and the many indigenous communities in its path. They also highlight the long-term effects on the Maya forest and Coral reefs which neighbour. The area hosts the largest freshwater aquifer in Mexico and is the second-longest underwater cave system in the world. The railway would damage this environment with the pillars planned, which will sink into the underwater caves, thus likely collapsing them. More importantly, the construction would cut off an ever-important stream of water towards the reefs in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. This would gravely impact the local ecosystem and wildlife.
Optimistically, the scuba diving community in Mexico and now globally are joining hands to bring this project to a halt, or even avert it.
When interviewing Michael Menduno, Editor-in-Chief of InDepth Magazine and a regular diver at this site, it was apparent that the construction was going to damage the local area and ecosystems. Or worse, hurt the communities affiliated with its loss. He had been just weeks ago and noted construction had already started. He regards these cave systems to be “temples” within the earth; “the veins and arteries” of water bodies beneath us. He explains how cautious and delicate divers behave in these environments, leaving them untouched. In this case, with the train line construction, there is heavy drilling and the very nature of it can only cause harm. He regards them to be heritage sites and is disheartened there isn’t more UNESCO protection in place.
Some positive news is imminent. DEMA has covered the matter in their press, which may spread awareness within the community in order to see the changes necessary.
What can you do? Below is a link to sign a petition. Share and spread the news, together we can raise awareness and see the change needed. This will hopefully enable voices to be heard by the Mexican government and allow for a reflection and alteration of the route, which is predicted to be completed by 2023. The petition has nearly 75,000 signatures now, and it appears to be gaining traction at a fast pace.