By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Preparations for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games include more than building, renovations and transportation projects. Other infrastructure construction is focusing on water drainage; to prevent future flooding and improve water quality on the rivers in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) neighborhood of Jacarepaguá.
Adjacent to Barra da Tijuca – the future site of the Olympic Park and where more than half of the games will take place – Jacarepaguá is home to fourteen river sections that are part of phase one of Rio-Águas‘ Jacarepaguá Basin Environmental Recovery Program.
While no outdoor water sports are planned for the Barra da Tijuca region during the games, all of the project’s rivers empty into the Jacarepaguá and Tijuca lagoons, around which many Olympic facilities are slated for construction. Several legacy facilities will remain after the games as well.
The ongoing water projects widen banks, deepen rivers and increase drainage, helping water to remain within channels without overflowing. Past flooding, especially during heavy rains, caused major damage to the area and fatalities in 1996.
Rio-Águas, the organization in charge of the projects, divided work on the river sections into three lots. Workers completed the projects the first lots’ sections of Córrego da Panela, Itanhangá, São Francisco and Papagaio rivers.
The cleaning of the rivers, some having deteriorated into almost landfills, increased overall water quality. “This was an extremely dirty river, with people throwing a great deal of trash into it,” said The president of Rio-Águas, Mauro Duarte in reference to the Rio Papagio.
“We looked for a solution that would integrate the community [by providing] an area for leisure, [while] dealing with a completely abandoned and polluted river.”
Treatment units are planned to address and sustain the water quality, and in 2010 the first of five stations was installed at the Arroio Fundo Canal. Four more stations in Arroio Pavuna, Pavuninha, Canal do Anil and Canal do Rio das Pedras are scheduled for future construction.
The Arroio Fundo River Treatment Unit (RTU) aims to treat the water of the Barra da Tijuca lagoons by removing waste and debris without disrupting the course of the river. Aluminum sulfate and polymer are used in the treatment operations which cost an estimated R$550,000 per month.
“I am certain, not only in 2016, which is very short term, but also in 2040 or 2050, we will see a different attitude in people,” said Duarte at the opening of the RTU. “It would be great if we could leave this watercourse clean, with fish and people enjoying nature in a pleasant manner. That would be very gratifying to see.”
Earlier this year Barra da Tijuca’s Riocentro convention center hosted the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). There nations discussed and debated “The Future We Want” document and drafted a final outcome document which states at number 119:
“We recognize that water is at the core of sustainable development as it is closely linked to a number of key global challenges. We therefore reiterate the importance of integrating water in sustainable development and underline the critical importance of water and sanitation within the three dimensions of sustainable development.”