Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Activists protest polluted waters in Rio de Janeiro

LETHAL:Rosemary Vega, a microbiologist participating in the demonstration, said a recent study found drug-resistant ‘superbacteria’ in the bay and nearby beaches

AP, RIO DE JANEIRO

An activist paddles his board, which has a toilet seat attached in protest of the polluted waters, during a demonstration at Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, near where Olympic sailing events are to be held, on Saturday.

Photo: AP

Activists on Saturday staged a demonstration on a sewage and trash-filled strewn Rio de Janeiro beach to protest authorities’ failure to make good on promises to clean up the Olympic city’s filthy waters ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.

Protesters gathered on Rio’s Botafogo Beach, in the Guanabara Bay near where Olympic sailing events are to be held, and unfurled a banner that read: “One billion dollars and it’s still disgusting.” One activist plied the brackish waters with a toilet atop his craft as the stench of sewage blew in on a gentle breeze.

With poor sanitation and garbage collection systems, much of the sewage and trash in this city of 12 million is swept into rivers that flow onto the city’s famous beaches, lakes and lagoons, as well as Guanabara Bay. An initial effort to clean up the bay, dating back more than 20 years, failed to make much of a dent in the problem, and, as part of the city’s Olympic bid, officials promised that a cleanup would be one of the most enduring legacies.

More than five years have passed since Rio was awarded the Olympics, but the situation remains largely the same. And with just over one year left before the showcase sporting event, authorities have acknowledged their Olympic cleanup pledges will not be met, prompting Olympic sailors and others to voice worries about possible health risks to athletes who come in contact with the waters.

Rosemary Vega, a microbiologist who took part in Saturday’s protests, said such fears were warranted. She pointed to a recent study showing the presence of drug-resistant “superbacteria” in the waters of Botafogo and the neighboring Flamengo beaches.

“What people don’t know is that these kinds of infections can kill you,” she said. “It’s a disgrace.”

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