- Title: OLYMPICS-BRAZIL/BAY Olympic sailing waters in Rio replete with sewage and trash
- Date: 10th March 2015
- Summary: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS AERIALS OF THE GUANABARA BAY
- Embargoed: 25th March 2015 12:00
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAXET1E5MF1LMKE17FLXZNU7PZ
- Story Text: Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay is still flush with raw sewage and trash less than a year and half before Olympic sailors will take to the waters during the 2016 Olympics.
The filthy water has been a sticking point for critics of the organizers of the games and one of the biggest challenges Rio's state and city governments have faced in preparing for the mega sporting event.
When it bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent.
Last month, Rio de Janeiro state governor Luiz Fernando Pezao said the amount of sewage treated before being dumped into the bay had increased from 17 percent to 49 percent with 18 months before the Games begin.
But the government has also said it is unlikely to reach the 80 percent threshold before the games begin in August of 2016 and the bay is still visibly polluted and foul.
The cleaning of Guanabara Bay was a key part of Rio's bid and has long been a goal of various local governments.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent but the waters remain fetid, with Olympic sailors who visited the city for test events complaining of floating sofas and animal carcasses.
Biologists last year said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria that is resistant to antibiotics that can cure urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.
A Brazilian biologist who specializes in the rejuvenation of ecosystems, Mario Moscatelli, on Tuesday (March 10) told Reuters the government should focus on those contaminated rivers which feed into the bay if they want to have a meaningful impact before the eyes of the world turn to Rio for the Olympics.
Moscatelli advocates for wider use of so-called "eco-barriers" that work as filters and block trash and residue up river before it reaches the bay.
"I think what is important and what the state government should do is invest heavily in having enough eco-barriers in the rivers to stop this residue, which is transported by the rivers, from reaching the Guanabara Bay. And the collection of this residue should be done mechanically, because there isn't enough manpower to manually collect the large amounts of trash carried by the rivers into the bay," Moscatelli said.
In fact, Governor Pezao announced last week the state plans to add additional eco-barriers and eco-boats which are used to collect trash already in the bay, as well as expand the use of satellite monitoring of trash in an effort to redouble efforts to clean up the polluted waters here.
Rio has several beaches on the bay, but only the bravest of potential bathers ever wade into the grimy water which often has a putrid smell and is rarely qualified as safe for swimmers by the city's beach monitors.
"Here must make a little bit… the sand is nice, but you see the water comes up and it smells not so good," an Austrian tourist, Othmar Stenech, said.
On parts of the bay not kept up by city trash collectors, rubbish almost completely covers the neglected beaches.
The state also said it would expand capacity at Sewage Treatment Plants, known as ETCs for their Portuguese acronym, but that has not come as quickly as promised.
The largest treatment plant, the ETC Alegria, currently only runs at about 50 percent capacity because not enough sewage is currently diverted to the treatment centre, according to Moscatelli.
"Enough sewage doesn't reach it in order to put it at full capacity. And all the sewage that doesn't go to the treatment centre, stays in the rivers, most of which are completely dead, the rivers that come here to the Guanabara Bay. This is just an example of sewage and trash that destroys a large portion of the biodiversity in the Guanabara Bay and compromises its use for tourism and sports, not just for the Olympics, but also for the future after the Olympics," Moscatelli said.
The cleaning of the bay and Rio's other waterways was meant to be a legacy left after the Games end.
The government says it will continue to work on cleaning up the bay even if it does not reach its goal before the start of the Olympics.
But similar promises were also made by federal, state and municipal governments about adding public transportation infrastructure before Brazil hosted the World Cup last year.
Several cities are still waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.
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