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.

Brazil's iconic but heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, around which Rio de Janeiro was built, Brazil News
Brazil's iconic but heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, around which Rio de Janeiro was built, photo by Brian Snelson/Flickr Creative Commons License.

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.

Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

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.


  1. Hope spring eternal. I shudder to think that some fish sold at the street markets could come from these polluted waters. When going across the causeway to the International airport there are always men fishing in the bay. Also along the bay in Niteroi – will some of the funds be spent on education and inspections to make sure the homes in these areas do get linked to a sewer system?

  2. This is fantastic news…on a recent visit from Australia I was amazed at and very disappointed by the very poor water quality in the Bay and at local beaches like Copacabana so it is with great joy that I read this news…..Fantastico..Go Rio!

  3. It will never happen ! The money will just disappear again. Makes great talk, however, just before the next “Green” Conference. We all remember the last grand announcement during ECO 92 and here we are 20 years later, with the Bay in worse shape than ever.

  4. do you think they will actually do it? i want to visit Rio in a few years, but in its full beauty.

    I think myself they will do it, considering how they have the olympics coming up, so that would probably boost there economy as well…

  5. In ECO 92 Japanese banks financed the clean up of Guanabara Bay with one billion dollars. The money evaporated and the bay is in a terrible state, worse than it was twenty years ago! Can we trust the government of the State of Rio de Janeiro….again ?!

  6. I was appalled by the condition of that body of water which really extends to the Atlantic. We arrived there a few days ago by cruise ship and garbage met our boat at least 20 kms out of the mouth of the bay, simply disgusting. We docked at the cruise ship berth for two days and the smell was awful. For such an iconic place on this planet this is a real let down, a shameful neglect to the environment and a total disregard to the great people of this nonetheless beautiful city.

  7. I was born (50 years ago) and raised in Rio and these waters have always been polluted…does anyone really believe they’ll use this money to clean it up? Armando Rozario is absolutely right! :-(


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