When plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport were canceled thanks to heavy objections from environmentalist groups, we at the Optimist Daily celebrated. The only thing that could have made it better is if they turned that proposed third runway into a natural park that would benefit people and the surrounding climate, which is sort of what happened in Mexico two years ago.
Back then, in 2018, Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, canceled plans to build an estimated $13 billion international airport. Instead, the president wanted to move forward with plans to construct what would be one of the world’s largest urban parks instead. Experts from around the world hope the project, if successful, will serve as an example to other cities of what is possible in the fight against climate change.
The size of the proposed park is nearly unfathomable from ground level, covering 12,300 hectares (30,394 acres) and stretching 16 kilometers (10 miles) from end to end. That’s about the size of 36 New York Central Parks or more than twice the size of Manhattan. The government and the architect behind the park, known as Parque Ecológico Lago de Texcoco, see great potential in the park—particularly in the face of mounting water shortages, floods, and climate change. They view this mega project as one that could turn back the clock on disruptions to the region’s water systems dating back to Hernán Cortés and the Spanish siege of Tenochtitlan in 1521.
The project is designed to be constructed in the basin of the former Lake Texcoco, which dried as Mexico City expanded into a megacity of more than 20 million people over the past two millennia. The area has not been inhabited and has been off-limits to the public due to annual flooding and infrastructure issues.
The government hopes to open up the first section of the park project by 2021, according to architect Iñaki Echeverria. Despite so many people believing Echeverria will fail to complete the project by 2024, the architect says he’s using that disbelief to motivate him to finish on time.