Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

The soil of the fourth section of Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest, which is currently being developed as a new tourist area with a number of added attractions, was found to be contaminated with high levels of mercury and arsenic, exceeding the limits allowed by the Official Mexican Standard (NOM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Chapultepec Forest’s fourth section was originally intended to be sold off and privately developed into a business district under the previous administration of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, predecessor of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). However, the federal government of Mexico announced in March 8, 2019, that due to issues of water supply and mobility in the area, the real estate complex would not push through.

“It will no longer be sold. There will no longer be any real estate development,” López Obrador said in March 2019 at his daily morning press conference.

“The fourth section of the forest will be a space dedicated to culture and the arts. It will be for the enjoyment of those who live in the area. The historic (former) gunpowder factory, which dates to the mid-19th century, will be preserved.”

Aside from the new tourist section, López Obrador also allowed the construction of living areas in the fourth section of the forest for members of Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), specifically, six building complexes that will serve as homes for some of Sedena’s soldiers.

The AMLO administration had announced in March of this year that the 10-billion-peso Chapultepec Park project will be ready in December 2023. The projected had been halted for two years due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Mexico City’s Secretariat of Environment (Sedema), however, has decided that a more in-depth study of the contaminated soil is required and is now looking for — but has yet to find — a specialized company to do a more thorough inspection of the land.

On Wednesday, June 22, opposition deputies demanded that ongoing construction on the fourth section of Chapultepec Forest be halted and that soil-remediation solutions be explored.

Melissa Vargas, a member of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and current secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, said that after the soil was diagnosed with severe contamination by heavy metals, the fourth section of the forest should be considered a high-risk area.

“Any further activity in this contaminated area should be reconsidered. On the contrary, if we are to act in a responsible manner, long-term restoration strategies for the soil, watershed and biodiversity of the damaged area should be established. The site should be considered a priority area,” Vargas said.

Cecilia Patron, federal deputy for the fourth district of the state of Yucatán and member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), requested for a group of specialists and experts to conduct further tests on the area.

Patron urged the three levels of government to work together in solving the problem, since in addition to trying to reverse the damage, she said she believes that it is necessary to determine the impact of the contamination on the construction works that are currently being carried out in the area.

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