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‘Water is not rubbish’: Rio art exhibit uses trash to fix pollution problem ahead of Olympics

An art exhibition in Rio de Janeiro called Achados da Guanabara (Found in Guanabaraa) is trying to call attention to the city's pollution problem a year before the 2016 Summer Olympics by putting trash from a major bay on display in a shopping mall. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    When Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympic Games back in 2009, the organizers made a promise: To clean up 80 percent of the trash and sewage in the notoriously polluted Guanabara Bay.

    But just last week, with less than a year and a half before the games are set to open, Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes, said the promised cleanup would not be completed in time.

    In the last six years, Rio has spent millions of dollars on the cleanup, yet the water still smells of sewage. Last year, during test events, sailors said they came upon a floating sofa and a dead dog in the water.

    This past December, specialists from Rio's public health research organization Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, announced they found a drug-resistant "super bacteria" in these same waters.

    Earlier this year the last few months, inspectors found thousands of dead fish washed up on shores just a little over 6 miles from where the competitions will take place. And, just last week, aerial shots revealed household trash floating throughout the bay, including in the sailing lanes to be used in the events.

    And now, an art exhibition called Achados da Guanabara (Found in Guanabaraa) is trying to call attention to the problem by putting trash from the bay on display in a shopping mall.

    The objects in the exhibition have "price tags" to symbolize the environmental cost of the waste, which one biologist estimated at $320 for every year it takes for an item to decompose.

  • FERNANDA CORTEZ, PROJECT DIRECTOR:

    "This is to show that we are facing a great structural problem in terms of sanitation, but also that there is a big problem in terms of educating the population that water is not rubbish."

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It is estimated that 70 percent of untreated sewage from Rio, including its surrounding municipalities, flows into the Guanabara Bay.

    Nevertheless, Carlos Nuzman, head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee said last week "The area of competition for the Olympic Games will be ready."

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