By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – At the end of March, Rio State Governor, Sérgio Cabral, announced new plans to clean up Guanabara Bay, one of Brazil’s most iconic and beautiful natural landmarks. The Environmental Sanitation Program for the Guanabara Bay Area (PSAM) will be one of the state government’s biggest environmental programs, relying on around R$1.1 billion in investments.
Of this, R$800 million will come from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and R$330 million from the Rio state government.
When the IDB deal was signed in Montevideo, Uruguay, on March 20th; Luis Alberto Moreno, the bank’s President, said, “This program is emblematic for its magnitude, which will bring improved living conditions for a large part of the state’s population.”
He continued, “[It will bring] benefits in terms of public health and it will have a big impact on improving social indicators in a region which is seen as one of Brazil’s foremost picture postcards,” he continued.
The PSAM’s mandate is to reduce the amount of pollution that reaches the bay, principally by improving and expanding the sewage collection and treatment system in the central and northern parts of the city of Rio, in the municipalities of Baixada Fluminense (lower Rio State), and in São Gonçalo (outside of Niterói).
The program aims to up sewage treatment rates from 6,000 liters of sewage per second currently, to 16,000 liters per second by 2016 – all of which would otherwise be running into the bay untreated. The PSAM is integral to Rio de Janeiro’s Sanitation Pact, approved in April last year, which pledges to expand basic sanitation services by eighty percent by 2018.
At a press conference on March 23rd, Rio de Janeiro’s Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, also called attention to the problem of garbage being deposited or leaking into the bay from nearby garbage dumps, and he announced that all the dump sites in the region would be closed by the end of the year.
According to the IDB, the Guanabara Bay region is home to more than ten million people. Fifteen municipalities stand to benefit from the plans, among them the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói.
The IDB estimates that its financial contribution will allow more than 359,000 households to gain access to the official sewerage network, directly benefiting more than 1.68 million people.
Speaking at the IDB meeting in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro State Governor Sérgio Cabral, said, “These resources will be fundamental in enabling us to finish the cleanup of Guanabara Bay and, finally, guarantee basic sanitation to more than 1.5 million people living in the Guanabara Bay area.”
This is not the first time the state has announced grand plans to cleanup the heavily polluted bay. At the beginning of the 1990s the Guanabara Bay Depollution Program (PDBG) was created, but despite heavy funding from both inside and outside the country, the plans stalled, the money disappeared and the work was never completed.
Minc said that this time things would be different: “We will provide total transparency in the implementation and progress of the PSAM works. All information will be available on the internet.”
“The funds will be managed by teams of CEDAE engineers, the Secretary of State for the Environment and the State Environmental Institute (INEA) and not by contractors, as was the case with the PDBG program,” Minc explained.