Environmental impact of New Mexico City Airport
The history of the Texcoco lake and its natural surroundings has been rekindled amidst discussions surrounding the construction of NAICM and its potential effect on the environment - Photo: Alejandro Acosta/EL UNIVERSAL

Environmental impact of New Mexico City Airport

06/09/2018
16:11
Berenice González Durand
Mexico City
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The construction of NAICM might have a negative effect on weather and migratory birds' life cycle

Since the early 17th century, Heinrich Martin, better known as Enrico Martínez, a cosmographer at the service of Philip II of Spain, decided to undertake the first structural projects to prevent the lake of Texcoco in Mexico City to lose its course, though in reality, the lake overflowed on several occasions and the final project took nearly two centuries to materialize.

During the 20th century, experts had decided to drain the lake until Nabor Carrillo, an engineer who was president of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) from 1953 to 1961, had a different idea.

His “Texcoco Lake” project proposed the complete opposite: Recovering the water, or at least part of it, through the construction of an artificial lake. His plan was arranged after his passing, but it resulted in a positive way of recovering environmental services in the Valley of Mexico. Carrillo had proposed the creation of artificial lakes over salinized land for them to become water regulators and avoid the excessive exploitation of groundwater reserves.

The largest artificial lake, which was called “Nabor Carrillo,” revitalized the natural ecological services in the area, regardless of the constant drainage interventions that have been conducted since. The history of the Texcoco lake and its natural surroundings has been rekindled amidst discussions surrounding the construction of Mexico City’s New International Airport (NAICM) and its potential effect on the environment.

Two main questions have stood out in the controversy: What do the environmental studies owe us regarding the Texcoco lake territory and what are the tools that we, as citizens, should have to obtain more information regarding this matter? Gustavo Alanís Ortega, president and founder of the Mexican Center of Environmental Law (CEMDA) has considered that encouraging and promoting studies on both local and migratory birds is of vital importance, regardless of the NAICM project’s future.

There are around 200 species of birds that inhabit the area at different times of the year. According to data provided by BirdLife, the most prestigious international organization dedicated to the protection of avifauna and their habitats, the area where the ancient lake of Texcoco once lay is one of the 338 most important areas for the preservation and care for biodiversity in the world.

With this in mind, the environmentalists’ concern has focused on the poor level of accuracy with which the species have been named, as well as their condition regarding the NOM-59 and the UICN in their studies endorsing the airport’s construction. “The studies on birds that have been made in the past will have to continue in the present and future, because this type of fauna will continue to arrive in the territory. Maybe not specifically in water bodies where the airport will be, but to neighboring areas. The birds will arrive looking for water availability, which they might find in the Guadalupe or Zumpango lakes,” the expert stated, adding that a permanent monitoring system was needed to protect birds since, without the necessary tools to determine the future of the species, it will be necessary to closely watch and improve life conditions at the new animal shelters.

A construction of the magnitude of Mexico City’s New Airport has to be vouched through an Environmental Impact Manifest (MIA). The expert in environmental law ensured that the manifest was subject to an evaluation process and backed with an impact resolution. “The resolution may be positive, positive with conditions, or negative. In this particular case, we were presented with an MIA that was positive with conditions, which means that the environmental institution gave the green light, but established a series of conditions for the project to continue. We should all be aware of what those conditions imply, and know that they are not optional. The project leaders have to comply.” he stressed.

A large number of variables will be considered, such as the handling of toxic waste, the monitoring of air quality in the airport’s perimeter, and reforestation methods. Should there be further expansions for the project, a new MIA must be issued as well.

The specialist added that it was important to observe cooperation between the contractors and Mexico’s National Water Commission for any important hydraulic works. The Nabor Carrillo water body has been of great importance for microclimates regulation and dust storm control, which are two of the lake’s natural functions that should be maintained with or without the project. “The airport group, following SEMARNAT’s conditions, will have to issue an annual report that Mexican citizens can access without difficulty,” stated the expert.
 

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