Rio de Janeiro, known as “Cidade maravilhosa”(Marvelous City in english) has for a long time been the face of Brazil. Ever since the time it was the capital, people have associated Brazil with that city(which, in my opinion, is unfortunate considering how its one of the worst cities in the country). However much you like the place though, its beach has been putrid for a long time, thanks to decades of dumping sewer water and chemicals on the bay.
This however has finally began to change! After just two years of efforts, Rio’s coast has finally become clean enough to swim. But how?
It all started back in 2021, when Rio state authorities privatized the region’s failing water and sanitation service Cedae, now owned by Águas do Rio. The company, under a 5 year plan, promised to invest R$ 2.7 billion($540 million) into cleanup programs, which already bear fruits. The new pumping and sewage systems, alongside a diverted Rio Carioca river to a interceptor that prevents rubbish and pollution from reaching the beach have stopped tons of waste from doing more damage.
“When we see such a quick change in certain areas of the Guanabara Bay we realise that what was lacking was serious work, permanent work,” says Brazilian biologist Mário Moscatelli. “And that’s what has been happening for the last two years up until now.”. He believes that in the next 15 years, the entire Bay area (that includes four nearby cities) could be as clean as Rio’s section.
Águas do Rio has a 35 year contract and has pledged 24.4 Billion reais(around 5 billion dollars) to increase sewage treatment to about 90%. This is a much needed new hope after multiple years of broken promises that lead up to 2016 Olympics when the state declared insolvency and failed to address the headline-grabbing pollution.
Swimmers are returning!
With all the cleaning done, as you can see in the video by Journal Euronews, the Guanabara Bay, Botafogo, Flamengo and Copacabana beaches all have seen massive improvements. The waters are finally clean enough for tourist ts to go back, as a report from country’s State Environment Institute (INEA), who has been collecting samples from beach waters since 2007, announced September 22nd this year that only two sections in Barra da Tijuca beach, on Rio’s west side, were unsuitable for swimming.
Botafogo “used to be unsuitable for swimming, no one ever came here” says fisherman Abel da Silva. “Now people are coming back.”
There still a long path ahead before victory can be declared, the work done is a sliver of much needed hope!