Photographers' Blog

Tainted paradise

March 29, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

A sofa is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I was born in this area when it was still called Guanabara, before it was renamed Rio de Janeiro state in 1975. I still miss that old name, which was a reference to our beautiful but now polluted bay.

A toy is seen at Pombeba island in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I hope to see these waters cleaned up before the 2016 Olympic Games, when the sailing events will be held here. But after spending a couple of days seeing how dirty the bay has become, it will be a massive job. I pray that a piece of floating debris will not hit a boat during the sailing competition, or a stray plastic bag will not affect the outcome of who stands on the podium and who doesn’t!

Old ships are seen at the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

As I photographed Guanabara Bay, I thought back to my time covering the sailing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The biggest concern there was sharks – nothing compared to the problems that sewage could cause for our Games if it’s not cleaned up in time.

On this recent tour of Guanabara Bay I was accompanied by biologist and environmental activist Mario Moscatelli, who said something I found very sad: “Brazilian authorities live in a parallel universe, looking through rose-tinted glasses at a world that has a different smell and different colors, which has none of the garbage we see floating and accumulating in the mangroves along Guanabara Bay.”

A helmet is seen at the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

During the competition to be chosen as an Olympic host city, Rio de Janeiro promised to clean up these waters and work is now being done. The chairwoman of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission recently said: “We have been assured Guanabara Bay will have all the rubbish removed.”

Garbage is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

During my two days out taking pictures, I saw part of the cleanup operation – a little boat with a sign reading: “Project for a bay without garbage”. It is one of a small fleet of vessels working to pick up trash in the area.

A garbage collecting boat in seen in front of the Sugar Loaf mountain at the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

It’s something. But with sewage constantly flowing into these waters, I think they are going to need a bigger boat!

Comments
One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

Hello Sergio,

Thanks for these images and impressions of what’s going on there. Yes they should do something real quick, not only because of the Olympics, it should always be clean.

Robert
http://www.photographyaruba.com/index.ht ml

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