By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Although the government’s Sena Limpa programs continue to combat pollution in Rio’s Atlantic and Guanabara Bay waters, with a second phase recently announced in October, many of the waters off of Rio’s long stretches of shoreline are still deemed unsuitable for swimming due to pollution.
Recently while visiting Rio, Danish Olympic sailor Allan Norregaard spoke about his experience sailing in the waters of Guanabara Bay, saying: “I’ve been sailing all over the world for twenty years now, and this is the most polluted place I’ve ever been. It’s really a shame because it’s a beautiful area and city, but the water is so polluted, so dirty and full of garbage.”
Illegal drainage systems, faulty sewage connections and greywater flowing into the Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are the cause of many of the water pollution problems.
To combat this, Rio state government organizations, in partnership with city government agencies created the Sena Limpa in 2012. At that time, investments of R$150 million went into the program with the goal of the first phase being to clean up, by 2014, the four Atlantic beaches of São Conrado, Ipanema, Leblon and Leme and the Guanabara Bay beaches of Urca and Ilha do Governador’s Bica beach.
“Clean beaches are what most motivates Rio,” said former Minister of the Environment Carlos Minc. “It’s more leisure, more health, more tourism and more green jobs . It’s being able to dive-in without having to close the mouth because of fecal coliform [bacteria].”
Before the first phase of the Sena Limpa program reached completion, the second phase was announced on October 29th with the focus shifted to include more beaches on the bay. Cleanup, which should require public investments of R$200 million, is scheduled for the six additional beaches: Copacabana, Botafogo, Flamengo, Guanabara on Ilha do Governador, Pepê/Joatinga in Barra da Tijuca and the beaches of Ilha de Paquetá.
“Ipanema, for example, has improved by sixty percent, Praia Vermelha [Urca] by niintey percent, and Leme by fifty percent. With these results, we decided to launch the second part of the project,” said Minc. “The most important thing is, that of the six beaches chosen, four are in Guanabara Bay.”
In addition the State’s Ministry of Environment (MMA), working with the State Institute of the Environment (INEA), closed the fifteen landfills located on the shores of Guanabara Bay. Guapimirim landfill was the last to be shut-down in late September of last year.
Also, early in June of this year president of the State Company for Water and Sewage (CEDAE), Wagner Victer said, “In the coming weeks we are getting important works, which are Olympic commitments, such as cleaning up the beaches of Urca , Praia Vermelha and São Conrado. For the lagoons in Barra, we will reach nearly one hundred percent (sewage treatment) in 2016.”
Work on the second phase of Sena Limpa is not expected to begin until the completion of all work on the beaches included in the first phase, after the 2014 World Cup and the second phase is scheduled to be finished by the 2016 Rio Olympics.