Government Refloats Airport Project


Campesinos deny handing over communal lands for new airport terminal.

Looking down from the Huatepec hills, Ernesto Cruz, a member of the Community Front in Defense of Land (FPDT), explains that below the grassy plains there is an aquifer critical to Mexico City, a metropolis with severe water problems that could increase if the area is paved.

This area is the bed of the ancient Lake Texcoco, a field that divides the federal capital of the municipality of San Salvador Atenco, in the central state of Mexico. It is a seismic zone where the ground is not firm and often floods; experts and scholars warn that it is not suitable to build on.

Nevertheless, the decision has been made. On Sept. 3, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the construction of a new airport in the Texcoco area. With an estimated more than US$12 billion price tag, it will be the third largest aerodrome in the world, with six runways and a capacity for 120 million travelers annually. Work on the first stage of the project, which includes three simultaneously operating runways, will begin next October and finish in 2020. No date has been announced for the completion of the entire facility.

The Secretariat of Communication and Transportation announced there will be a “hydraulic program” to protect the airport from flooding, but the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources has not yet submitted an environmental impact statement.

Already in 2000, the Mexican government had considered the Texcoco area as suitable for the foundation of the capital’s new airport because the current one is over-burdened. The implementation of the project includes the expropriation of ejido (communally-owned) land in the Municipality of San Salvador Atenco, that families receive in usufruct and which can only be transferred by an assembly decision. The community members, who did not want to stop cultivating their land, created the FPDT and fought in the courts and in the streets until August 1, 2002, when they obtained the repeal of the expropriation and the cancellation of the project.

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