The Santa Lucía airport project is facing a new delay: the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) has suspended assessment of the environmental impact statement (EIS) until it receives more information.
Gustavo Alanís, director of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, told the newspaper Milenio that on June 12 Semarnat asked the Secretariat of Defense (Sedena) – which is in charge of the project – to provide more studies and more information about the México state project, and to clarify some of the information that it has already presented.
The additional information must be provided within a period of 60 working days, Semarnat said.
Alanís said that approval for the project might not be granted for nine months, meaning that construction wouldn’t be able to start until the first quarter of 2020.
Before the request for additional information was made, Communications and Transportation Secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú said he expected environmental approval to be granted by the end of this month.
Sedena filed an EIS with Semarnat on April 15 that seeks environmental approval for the construction of the new airport, a road link to the existing airport and the relocation of military facilities on the Santa Lucía Air Force Base site.
However, according to a report published in Milenio, the statement lacks information about a range of environmental impacts related to the construction and operation of the airport.
The EIS doesn’t adequately consider the impact it will have on the area’s water supply by drawing water from the already overexploited Cuatitlán-Pachuca aquifer, the newspaper said, nor does it examine the effect that excessive noise levels will have on the local population.
In addition, a study included in the EIS about the airport’s impact on birds that frequent the nearby Zumpango lagoon was completed between January and March, a period when the avian population is much lower than in the rainy season.
At least 94 different bird species fly through the airport site or perch and forage there, while more than 220 species have been observed at the lagoon, which is located 10 kilometers from the Santa Lucía Air Force Base.
The EIS itself recognizes that more studies about the migratory patterns of birds at different times of the year are needed.
There is also a lack of detail in the EIS about the plan to build a 45.7-kilometer road between the Santa Lucía and Benito Juárez airports and Semarnat has asked for clarification about plans to cut down 5,195 trees on the air force site.
The request for additional information adds to the challenges the government faces in order to commence construction of the US $4.1-billion airport.
A collective opposed to government waste has filed 147 injunction requests that could hold up or threaten construction of the new airport, or even revive the abandoned Mexico City airport project.
The federal judiciary has already issued suspension orders that instruct the government not to start construction until it has all the necessary environmental and air safety permits.
The presence of a 2,625-meter-high hill less than 10 kilometers from the construction site has also caused problems for the project and earlier this year forced changes to the position of the two commercial runways, which added almost 7 billion pesos to the construction cost.
However, there are still concerns that the Cerro de Paula could hinder the ability of planes to take off and land.
Aviation experts have also questioned the capacity of the Santa Lucía airport to operate simultaneously with the existing airport due to their proximity to each other and the limited airspace they will share.
But the government has maintained that the project will be a success, pledging that it will open in June 2021 and immediately relieve pressure on the saturated Mexico City airport.
Source: Milenio (sp)