The Netherlands helps Rio de Janeiro combat Guanabara Bay pollution

A Dutch consortium of government, companies, knowledge institutes and NGOs has joined forces to help the Brazilians to structurally clean up their polluted bay. On 30 June a small delegation - including Tauw - presented the 'Clean Urban Delta Initiative' to the State Secretary for the Environment of the State of Rio de Janeiro. This collaborative agenda was simultaneously presented to the Brazilian ambassador in The Hague.

Contamination of Olympic sites

In August major ‘test events' for the Olympics and Paralympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympic water sports venues in Rio de Janeiro are still highly contaminated. Many athletes have expressed their concerns about the 'plastic soup' floating around in Guanabara Bay, and the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the Olympic rowing venue, is also facing environmental problems. The Brazilian authorities are therefore faced with an enormous challenge. They need all the help they can get from abroad. In response to this the Dutch consortium and the Consulate in Rio organised a seminar with Brazilian stakeholders about an integrated and concrete approach in March of this year. As a first step, the Netherlands and the State of Rio de Janeiro concluded a 'Memorandum of Understanding' aimed at monitoring the contamination in the bay.

Sustainable approach

The Dutch offer is special because of its integrated approach: not just stopgap solutions, but cleaning up as well as working together with the Brazilians to create a circular economy. The waste and sewage that are now causing the contamination no longer have to end up in the bay. Targeted innovative projects can create value from waste and generate new businesses and employment. A good example of a concrete and sustainable approach!

The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are so enthusiastic about the Dutch approach that they would like to help make the proposed approach a success. The 20 concrete and innovative public-private projects that have been proposed require an investment from the Brazilian side, but could eventually generate sufficient value for returns on these investments.

Innovative techniques from TauwTauw proposes two innovative techniques that will help in eliminating waste/purifying the water in and around the bay.

    A system that quickly and effectively captures plastic waste originating from rivers and inland deltas. The rivers near Guanabara Bay are used as an open sewer and drainage of any waste that is in any way flushable.
    A system that should ensure that sewage – which is discharged in the port of Marina da Gloria (where the Olympics will start) - is guided to the salty, fast-flowing sea water, and that fresh water is driven into the port, creating a current.

Both techniques are based on the dredge spoil buffer technique, which is attracting a great deal of interest, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world.

Role of the Dutch government

As initiator and partner in the consortium, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment worked in close cooperation with the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs and the Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro during this process.

This initiative ties in well with the efforts of the Dutch government to promote a circular economy and put Dutch knowledge and innovations in this field on the international map.

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