Rio water pollution targets won’t be met by 2016 Olympics and Paralympics

 

Pollution levels in the waters of the Rio 2016 sailing venue on Guanabara Bay are not expected to meet the promised targets, state environmental officials have said.

In a May 7 letter addressed to Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, which was seen by The Associated Press, Rio state Environment Secretary Carlos Francisco Portinho claimed it will take more than a decade to significantly reduce the levels of pollution in the bay, while asking for $70 million (£41 million/€51 million) to fund de-pollution work.

Despite promises to cut the flow of pollution into Guanabara Bay by 80 per cent before the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, it was revealed last November that it has 78-times Brazil’s legally allowed limit of faecal pollution, and 195-times the United States limit.

Brazil had pledged to expand the sewage network and begin construction of River Treatment Units to filter out much of the sewage, but, with little more than two years to go until the Games, nearly 70 per cent of the sewage in the metropolitan area continues to flow untreated into area rivers, the bay and beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

In his letter, Portinho said that even if the funding is granted and treatment units built it “would represent a reduction of over 50 per cent of the pollution flowing into Guanabara Bay” – 30 per cent below the promised reduction.

Portinho also explained that given the “urgency of the matter and its fundamental role in the event, it is of great importance that the funds be released in order to allow construction [on two River Treatment Units] to begin in the second half of 2014.”

“Even if the necessary resources to implement sanitation systems in the waterways mentioned were released it would not be possible to plan and implement all the projects within a timeframe that would make a significant difference in the water quality in Guanabara Bay by the 2016 Olympics,” he added.

The letter also said that several state agencies have been studying the issue and “concluded that the beneficial effects on the waters of Guanabara Bay will only occur in at least a decade, if the current levels of spending on sewage collection and treatment are maintained.”

With sailing being the first Rio 2016 test event in any sport, taking place from August 2 to 8 this summer, it is feared pollution levels will still be too high for the competition to take place.

The International Sailing Federation’s head of competitions, Alastair Fox, told insidethegameslast month that although he was confident the sailing event at the Games would be successful, he admitted the test event would be “difficult”.

This article first appeared in Inside the Games and is reproduced with permission. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.

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