President López Obrador has renewed his proposal that a public consultation be held to decide the fate of a fertilizer plant project in Topolobampo, Sinaloa.
During a visit to the northern state on Wednesday, López Obrador acknowledged that local authorities support the US $5-billion ammonia and urea plant project under construction by the company Gas y Petroquímica de Occidente (GPO) but noted that there have been protests against it.
For that reason, citizens must be given the opportunity to participate in a vote to decided whether the project can continue, he said.
“Only with a consultation [can it go ahead]. … It will be difficult because there are protests, there are groups that don’t accept it. The people should be the ones who decide, we can’t impose anything,” the president told reporters in Los Mochis, located 20 kilometers from Topolobampo.
López Obrador first called for a consultation on the fertilizer plant in June last year, and said that an investigation would be carried out to determine whether it would “harm or benefit citizens.”
Construction of the plant began in August 2018 but a federal judge halted the project in March 2019 due to environmental concerns.
The Aquí No (Not Here) Collective has been granted several injunctions that have stalled the project, and has rejected López Obrador’s proposal to hold a public consultation about its future, demanding that he cancel it instead.
Many fishermen say the plant will cause irreparable damage to the Santa María, Topolobampo and Ohuira lagoons and restrict the area in which they can work.
Environmental activists say that marine life such as turtles and bottlenose dolphins will be adversely affected, while the head of the federal government’s Natural Protected Areas Commission said last year that having an ammonia plant so close to lagoons that are protected by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance “is not possible.”
GPO, a subsidiary of Swiss-German engineering, procurement and construction group Proman AG, has rejected claims that the plant’s operation would damage the environment.
The company and supporters of the project say the fertilizer plant is needed because ammonia production has not kept up with growing demand. As a result, imports have increased and farmers have had to pay more for fertilizer.
GPO hopes to begin production at the new plant in the first half of 2022. The plant would produce about 800,000 tonnes of ammonia and 700,000 tonnes of urea per year for the domestic market.
Several public consultations on a range of projects have been held since López Obrador took office in December 2018.
Most recently, a US $1.4-billion brewery that was under construction by the United States company Constellation Brands was canceled in March after a vote found 76.1% of participants opposed it.
López Obrador canceled the previous government’s US $13-billion Mexico City airport project after a consultation held before he took office found that 70% of participants favored his plan to convert a México state airport into a commercial one.
Government critics say the cancellations of the partially-built brewery and airport have hurt investor confidence and will cost Mexico huge amounts of money in the long term.
Source: Reforma (sp)