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The forgotten environmental legacy: The battle to clean up Rio’s lakes after the 2016 Olympics

The forgotten environmental legacy: The battle to clean up Rio’s lakes after the 2016 Olympics

FILE – Fish carcasses on the shore of Lake Jacarepagua, in front of the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

When it hosted Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016videos of the vast complex of lakes around Olympic Park They were everywhere. After years of pollution with sewage and garbage, many expressed hope that a wave of investment linked to the international sporting event would restore the waterways. This did not happen.

Eight years later, the private concessionaire is working to restore the aquatic ecosystem in western Rio. The project aims to remove enough silt and dirt from the Barra area and the lakes. Jacarepagua To fill 920 Olympic swimming pools. The dredging process began in late April and is expected to take three years, according to Igua, which recently took over water and wastewater management in the city’s western neighbourhoods.

Real estate development in western Rio has increased significantly over the past half century. Mangrove and coastal forest areas have been filled in and paved to make way for gated communities and exclusive residential complexes. They were required by law to treat their own wastewater.But many of them shut down their systems at night to save money, according to Marcio Santa Rosa, who was responsible for the environmental management and sustainability plan for hosting the 2016 Olympics. Local watersheds also received untreated waste from informal working-class neighborhoods.

Prior to the 2016 Olympics, the Santa Rosa office committed to restoring the lake complex and the state government conducted extensive studies. Santa Rosa said he fell into the clutches of bureaucracy.

File photo: Aerial photo of the Olympic Park that was used during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes.

“There was a dispute between prosecutors (state and federal), and the project did not move forward.”“We realize that this is what we have to do,” said Santa Rosa, who now coordinates the sustainable marine economy and management of the Gulf at Rio’s Environment Secretariat. Associated Press by phone. “Incredibly, we missed the opportunity to do this cleaning work during the Olympics.”

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In 2021, the Rio state government separated water distribution and wastewater collection from its utility company, Cedae, and opened the bidding process for four 35-year concession areas. Winning bidders could lose their concessions for failing to meet their contractually mandated goal of increasing wastewater collection and treatment to 90% by 2033, and have specific environmental requirements. Igua has to clean up the lake complex.

Mario Muscatelli, A., said: Biologist and expert in coastal ecosystemsand has long criticized the state’s inability to stop the flow of sewage into waterways.

“We had the Pan American Games, the Olympics, the World Cup, and thousands of Olympic promises and environmental legacies that ended up not happening,” he noted.

But Muscatelli said he has seen lake conditions improve while working as a consultant for Igua. He compared it to a patient who was in a state of despair and is now able to walk.

IGOA must invest 2.7 billion Brazilian reais ($510 million) in its concession areaOf which 250 million riyals are to clean the lake complex. In addition to dredging, IGOA is restoring channels between the lagoons and the Atlantic Ocean, installing collectors to prevent the discharge of untreated sewage, and restoring local mangrove forests.

Reversing decades of degradation and lack of watershed management will take time.

“It is a medium and long-term path. We cannot yet evaluate or verify any gains, because all these measures need to be implemented,” said Lucas Arosti, IGOA’s COO. “Only after they are completed will we start to see significant changes in the quality of “Water.”

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(With information from AP)