Water pollution tricky issue for Rio de Janerio Olympic Games

With the Olympic Games just 17 months away, the Rio de Janeiro authorities in Brazil are under pressure to clean the polluted Olympic sailing venue Guanabara Bay.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 11, 2015, 16:08 PM IST
Water pollution tricky issue for Rio de Janerio Olympic Games

Rio de Janeiro: With the Olympic Games just 17 months away, the Rio de Janeiro authorities in Brazil are under pressure to clean the polluted Olympic sailing venue Guanabara Bay.

Water pollution has been a tricky issue for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as floating garbage could still be seen in many areas on the city's bay and lakes, reports Xinhua.

Besides Guanabara Bay, severe water pollution also plagues the lagoon that surrounds the Olympic Park and the new Olympic golf course. And a lot of fishes have died in Rio's Rodrigo de Freitas lake where the Olympic rowing competitions will be held.

Mario Moscatelli, an independent biologist who has been monitoring pollution in Guanabara Bay for more than 18 years, said: "There are parts of the bay where you are literally inside a latrine. The nearby factories, urban areas, especially slums continue to release garbage and sewage into the bay."

During last year's Rio Olympics sailing testing event held in this bay, a sailboat was even broken by the garbage on the river. In December, a drug-resistant "super bacteria" was also discovered in the water around the bay. Many sailors are afraid that the water quality will harm their health.

Officials in Rio have vowed to treat 80 percent of the polluted water before the start of the Games. Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao said recently that 49 percent of the area's sewage is being treated. However, barriers also exist.

Brazilian media O Globo said this month that 10 rubbish collection boats on the bay were out of service because of lack of funding from Rio's state government. Meanwhile, due to the same reason, some filter facilities to keep the sewage from reaching the water are also on the verge of being skipped.

Though International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was assured that the sailing venue will be suitable when the Games start, Rio state authorities have recently acknowledged that they would not be able to make good on the Olympic promise to treat 80 percent of the sewage entering Guanabara Bay.

Moscatelli also has a pessimistic attitude, saying the promises made to Rio's residents and the IOC by Brazilian authorities is nothing but "an environmental fraud".

Nawal El Moutawakel, head of the IOC co-ordination commission, however said last month in Rio that she was assured by government officials that the problem was being tackled.

"We want every single venue to be ready for the athletes to compete in a secure and safe manner," she said. 

"We have been given reassurances that all the venues will meet the level, so athletes can compete."