Mexico City to fight federal government over sustainability of huge new airport

The government of the world’s most populous city has announced that it intends to legally challenge the construction of the nation’s new main international airport on the grounds that it threatens the sustainability of the city and its environment.

Mexico City’s environment minister, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, has announced that the city’s government will consider all possible legal avenues to prevent the construction of the new international airport for the sake of sustainability, following the federal government’s announcement to begin expropriating land for the US$2 billion plan on 29 October. The minister argues that the governmental go-ahead for the construction on a dried-up lake-bed just outside the capital had taken no environmental impact study into consideration.

Sheinbaum, supported by environmental groups and farmers argues that the new airport, which is to be situated in an area where there are currently agricultural small holdings, would create unsustainable urban growth and put even greater stress on an already over-abused hydraulic basin, threatening underground water deposits. The minister also heavily condemns the plan for being situated within a nature reserve where 144 species of migratory birds, totalling 300,000, gather annually, and not specifying how sufficient bodies of water would still be provided. In addition Sheinbaum argues that because the lake-bed acts as a flood plain at times of heavy rain, filling it in for development would lead to flooding across major parts of the metropolis. Hundreds of local smallholders, meanwhile, have blocked highways armed with machetes after receiving a federal expropriation decree for a total of 13,000 acres.

The federal government, however, sees the plans for the new airport, which have been 33 years in the making, as inevitable as the existing international airport cannot continue to cope with increasing flight traffic, and even hails it as an environmental boost for the area. The government contests that a greater area will be given over to environmental projects than allocated to the airport itself. The government has also said that the airport will neither harm bird populations as they will simply regroup around the installation in new wetlands which will be built, and rejects that any flooding danger will result from the airport’s construction.

The federal environment secretary, Víctor Lichtinger, said that he would make personally sure any impacts of the project would have to fulfil environmental requirements, after receiving more detailed environmental impact assessments which he is awaiting.

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