In spite of the delays to begin the construction of the Santa Lucia Airport in Mexico City, due to a number of legal injunctions against the project, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador ratified that the project will be concluded in 2021, and that he is confident that the works will begin soon.
In addition, he stated that it is unfeasible and unacceptable to preserve the construction works done on the Texcoco project and reiterated that this site should recover its vocation as a lake, which means he is determined to flood the site.
During his daily morning press conference on Tuesday October 8th, he insisted that there is a “legal sabotage” of his opponents who agreed to stop the construction of the Santa Lucia airport. AMLO declared that there were 16 law firms coordinated to issue injunctions against the project.
INDIGENOUS LOCALS GO UP AGAINST MEXICO CITY AIRPORT
But the people of San Lucas, a small town about 60 kilometers (42 miles) north of Mexico City, who have worked the earth, growing carrots, cilantro, beans and other crops in what was once rich agricultural land for generations, consider this project a threat against their community and fear for the lack of water.
Now, Filiberto and others in his indigenous community fear they may be about to lose another battle against urbanization – one revolving around Mexico City’s new international airport.
Set to be built on the military airbase called Santa Lucia, just a 15-minute drive from San Lucas, the project is being spearheaded by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Like Laiza, many worry that the 36-square-km development is going to suck up their rapidly dwindling resources, especially water from an aquifer that is already heavily depleted.
“Water is a vital liquid that moves us all,” Laiza said. “Where will all the water that will be needed to maintain this monster come from?”
The head of Mexico’s environment ministry, Semarnat, has publicly insisted that it has resolved the water problem.
“The water is going to be moved with an aqueduct, there aren’t any major problems,” Toledo Manzur (head of Semarnat) told the press in September.
Locals are unconvinced, and worried not just about the airport itself, but also the surrounding infrastructure, which, they say, will alter the countryside.
“Logically, casinos, hotels and shopping malls are going to arrive,” said Mateo Martinez Urbina, 63, a doctor in the nearby town of Tecamac and president of the local water board.
“More than benefits, (the airport) is going to bring us much harm.”
The Lopez Obrador administration has said the project will be environmentally sound and respect the communities surrounding the airport site.
“(It will) reduce emissions, waste production (and) save water,” Gustavo Ricardo Vallejo Suarez, a former director of the Mexican military’s school of engineers, who is overseeing the project, told reporters in April.
According to an environmental impact study by the engineering institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the airport also represents “a great opportunity for job creation … that favour(s) current inhabitants and future generations.”
Environmental experts, however, say the concerns of Laiza and other residents regarding water resources are well founded.
A study from the Mexican government published in 2015 found that the aquifer underneath Santa Lucia and its surroundings was already operating at a deficit of more than 58 million cubic metres per year.
But Eric Galindo Castillo, a scientist and professor at the Latin American Technological Institute in the state of Hidalgo, said the government figures do not take into account the dozens of illegal wells in the area.
The real deficit, he said in emailed comments, is closer to 400 million cubic metres per year – and that is before the airport even begins construction.
“It’s unimaginable,” Galindo Castillo said of the Santa Lucia project. “It lacks planning. You put more infrastructure, you’re going to take more water. But from where?”
San Lucas residents are resigned to the fact that, eventually, the airport will be built, transforming their fading way of life in the process.
“This is a ticking time bomb,” said Filiberto Mena Laiza, we’re not going to be able to stop it – we have to be honest with ourselves … I just want them to respect my town.”
The Yucatan Times Newsroom with information from:
- La Jornada