The Rio Olympics set to be a disaster for the environment

Garbage next to an ecobarrier in the Meriti River being cleaned up by workers. Photo credit: Ricardo Moraes. 
By Anders Lorenzen

Just days after the start of the Rio Olympics, the commitment made by the hosts towards sustainability and the environment is being questioned.


A report which is being prepared by Brazil’s Federal Audit Court (TCU) are expected to conclude that there is no evidence to suggest that the environmental improvements that were promised have been fulfilled.


Brazilian municipal, state and federal governments promised that the 40 billion reais ($12.2 billion) expected to be spent on the Olympics would include the construction or expansion of essential environmental infrastructure and other social improvements.
Some of those promises included reducing the flow of trash and raw sewage into the city’s Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon as well as the construction of sewage infrastructure on lagoons and swamps adjacent to the Olympic Park and Village.
As water quality remains low with sailors, rowers, swimmers and other watersports competitors criticizing venues for high concentrations of bacterial and viral pathogens. Sailors also worry floating trash will slow or damage their boats.
The TUC report follows another report released by them last year concluding that the environmental projects promised for the games would not be finished before the start of the Rio Olympics. The TUC says that with the Rio Games about to begin, there have been no advancement in these areas.
Though there is little chance the organisers would be penalised for not fulfilling their environmental promises as most of the spending for the games, which run from the 5th to the 21st of August, was channeled through Rio de Janeiro’s state and municipal governments.
As the games begins Brazil finds themselves in political and environmental chaos, with President Dilma Rousseff having been impeached. Vice President and acting President Michel Temer is even less of a friend to the environment than Rousseff, he favours speeding up environmentally destructive infrastructure projects that could further speed up Amazon deforestation. In 2012 Rousseff recently passed new amendments to Brazil’s forest code, a move which environmental groups warned would increase deforestation. And in 2014 it was confirmed that Brazil’s deforestation rates had increased by a staggering 290%.

On the Rio Olympics sustainability website it is promised that a low carbon games would be delivered, with trucks and busses running on 20% biodiesel – with no information on how the biodiesel is produced. They are also promising to design intelligent transport routes to cut down on unnecessary travel and congestion. And finally they promise to mitigate 100% of the emissions created by the Rio Games. Those Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits. Though the website does not provide any updates on whether any of those goals and promises have been fulfilled, which leaves one to suspect that they have not. A greener life, a greener world, have asked Rio Olympics Sustainability for clarification on this, but are still waiting for a reply.
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