By the 2016 Olympic Games Brazil will not make good on its commitment to clean up Rio de Janeiro's sewage-filled Guanabara Bay, state environmental officials acknowledged in a letter obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.
Last month Sail-World reported an admission by the Rio environment department that 800,000 tonnes a day of effluennt flows into the river system that ends in Guanabara Bay.
In the May 7 letter addressed to Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, Rio's state environment secretary, Carlos Francisco Portinho, asks for more funding for pollution control efforts and admits that at current investment rates, it will take more than a decade to significantly reduce the levels of pollution in Guanabara Bay, where the Olympic sailing events and rowing are to be held.
Brazilian authorities had pledged to cut by 80 percent the flow of pollution into the Bay by the 2016 Games through the expansion of the sewage network and the construction of River Treatment Units.
However In the letter, the Rio state environment secretary requested the Sports Ministry give the Rio State government $70 million to help build two new RTUs. He acknowledged that even if the funds were released and the treatment units built, they, along with two other existing units, 'would represent a reduction of over 50 percent of the pollution flowing into Guanabara Bay' — well below the promised reduction.
Tyres and sewage float in Guanabara Bay near Rio’s international port. - Eliseu Cavalcante
He said 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 the two RTUs) to begin in the second half of 2014.'
In the letter, Portinho wrote that even if authorities were to tackle the bigger problem of a lack of basic sanitation by expanding the sewage network, it would prove are too little, too late for the Olympics.
'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,' the letter stated.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that in April, the Rio de Janerio State government announced that it was cutting its 2016 Olympics budget for bay clean-up by 95 percent, reducing spending from over $1 billion to around $51 million. The projects will fund boats to collect trash and eco-barriers to stem the flow of debris and sludge streaming into the bay.