Rio’s Water Quality in Advance of the Olympics
By admin February 25, 2016

Botafogo beach, on the banks of Guanabara Bay, south zone of Rio de Janeiro, is threatened with ban of pollution in the water


In 2009, when Rio de Janeiro won its bid to host the Summer 2016 Olympic Games, its officials promised to clean up the notoriously polluted waters around the city before the Games commenced. Additionally, the Games would arrive just two years after Rio was to be a host city for the 2014 World Cup. With over six million people residing in the city proper alone, and hundreds of thousands of international tourists expected for the Olympic Games, health and sanitation have become higher priorities for the country after dealing with polluted waterways for decades.

In addition to the trash that often makes its way into the Guanabara Bay from various rivers emptying into it and from housing establishments surrounding it, the biggest concern regarding the bay, oceans, and lagoons of the city results from decades of sub-par sewage management. Businesses and housing complexes alike have taken advantage of the waterways by dumping their waste directly into them rather than ensuring they are using city sewer lines and sanitation plants. This has been both due to negligence and the inability to keep up with urban sprawl, particularly in the less-regulated favelas.

Athletes training for the games locally have already complained about illness and infections possibly linked to the quality of the water, though epidemiologists caution that there is no definitive link. Additionally, independent water testing revealed high levels of bacterial and viral agents in nearly every open water Olympic venue.

While there have been efforts to clean up the trash by building water barricades and sanitation pumps, many sewage lines still are not connected to the pumps and some continue to be inoperable as a result.

The officials themselves are facing an onslaught of challenges which are hindering their capacities to upgrade and manage a new water system before July 2016. A change of office and political parties in the mayoral seat, updating of transportation infrastructure, building of venues, the lowered cost of oil resulting in less money available from the state-owned oil company, and the most recent outbreak of the Zika virus have Brazilian officials scrambling for solutions, making it highly unlikely that the city will meet its water quality goals in time for the Olympics. There is, however, hope in that the water quality has improved and there is a greater popular and political will to clean up the bay than ever before.

As Rio redoubles its efforts to improve the quality of its water, it will improve the health of its citizenry, particularly its most vulnerable populations, as it reduces water-borne and water-related diseases. Studies show that improved health contributes to economic gains as people miss fewer days of work and school. Furthermore, its appeal as a tourist destination grows, increasing the inflow of capital to the city. For the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city) already endowed with so many attractive qualities, cleaning up its water would be among the most significant contributions to its further development.


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