The installation of a giant ferris wheel in Cancún has raised concerns over its environmental impact and the actions of the municipal administration with regard to the project.
The giant wheel, the product of the Netherlands-based firm Dutch Wheels, represents a 200-million-peso (US $9.9 million) Mexican-Dutch investment in the Punta Cancún area of the city’s hotel zone.
Once finished, the 60-meter-high giant wheel will carry eight people in each of its 42 air-conditioned gondolas, with a theoretical annual capacity of 3 million passengers.
The project, to be known as Gran Rueda Cancún, or Big Wheel Cancún, will be similar to the Chicago Centennial Wheel, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and the Baku Wheel in Azerbaijan.
Cancún Mayor Remberto Estrada Barba described the wheel as “a new world-class attraction that will soon become a must for visitors.”
But it turns out that construction began without an approved environmental impact assessment. The firm had requested an exemption from that requirement from the federal Environment Secretariat (Semarnat).
But after evaluating the construction methods to be utilized the agency notified the firm in January that it could not be exempted because the wheel was to be erected in a coastal environment.
The Environment Secretariat also notified Profepa, the environmental protection agency.
In spite of that construction of the wheel has continued and is now 90% complete.
But irregularities at the municipal level have temporarily halted the project. The local Environment and Urban Development Secretariat suspended construction on Friday after it was discovered it had no municipal permits.
The Ecologist Group of the Mayab (Gema for short) has accused Estrada of deceiving Cancún residents by promoting the wheel while it lacked those permits.
Gema president Araceli Domínguez Rodríguez said that if Estrada’s intention was to give Cancún an iconic landmark, the wheel “could be the perfect icon for impunity and illegality.”
Estrada and his government secretary, Mauricio Rodríguez Marrufo, reportedly defended the project until the suspension was unavoidable.
Both politicians have been named in the investigations against former Quintana Roo governor Roberto Borge.