Mexico Announces Plans for $9.2 Billion Dollar Airport

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Normally when an 11,000 plus acre airport is planned, the environmental concerns stack up like runway traffic during an ice storm. Mexico City’s new airport might be an exception to the rule in that regard, however.

As it stands right now, the new airport is being designed using environmentally-friendly best practices. In a recent announcement from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, he said that the 50 year long project will be located six miles from the current Mexico City airport on 11,400 acres of former lakebed. The airport will feature six runways with capacity to handle 32 million passengers per year.

Aside from its sheer size, Environment Secretary Juan Guerra says that the airport will include natural lighting and ventilation, electricity from biogas plants, its own water treatment plant as well as other examples of the foremost sustainability standards. He went on to say, “The airport will contribute to an improved environment and quality of life in the valley of Mexico. It won’t only be a sustainable airport … (it) will also contribute to the restoration of the surrounding area.”

Not only do the airport plans include a new standard of environmental sustainability in a large-scale construction project, they are also designed to re-develop the land surrounding the airport. The project includes rehabilitating thousands of acres surrounding the airport with lagoons to collect rain water and prevent flooding. National Water Commissioner David Korenfel said that as many as six additional man-made lakes will be built in the area, an area which currently has three as part of a flood-prevention initiative.

Not everyone is excited about the new plan, however. Gustavo Alanis, director of the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights, is worried that, “All projects, especially those of this nature will have an impact (on the environment) and they carry risks and we shouldn’t minimize that or put it aside.” His main concerns are that the habitats for several different bird species, including herons and ducks, might be at risk. Alanis is also worried about the engineering issues and risks associated with potential flooding – as well as building in a major seismic zone.

Several non-governmental organizations have called for Mexican authorities to open public dialogue about the environmental impact of the project. The coordinator of the new airport plan, Manuel Angel Nunez, said the environmental impact study is ready for review. Design plans are scheduled to be delivered to the Environment Department next week, and it will be up to federal environmental authorities to make the report public.

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