” The eye “ collect all the waste. Named by the services of the city of Buenos Aires, because of its circular shape, the floating trash can collection everything that the wind blows or that passers-by throw into the Riachuelo river: plastic bottles, cans, packets of crisps… A yellow catamaran deposits them there by shovelfuls. Another boat will come and collect the contents of this aquatic trash, to deposit it in a public dump.
Thanks to this ballet, which takes place all day, every day of the week, the body of water, located in the tourist district of La Boca, in the south of the Argentine capital, is immaculate. The showcase constituted by this part of the waterway thus offers visitors a pleasant image. A timid progress for the most polluted river in the country. Because the Matanza-Riachuelo basin, of its full name, represents an immense environmental, health and social challenge, which has long been ignored.
Titanic works, at work since 2016, should be completed in the first half of 2023 and let the river breathe: the construction of 40 kilometers of sewers and of a “pre-treatment” plant – which consists in isolating the solid elements, fats and sand from the wastewater before discharging the liquid part into the river – constitutes the largest extension of the region’s sewage system for sixty- ten years.
“Everyone, businesses and residents, took advantage of the lack of law and the state’s lack of interest in the south of the city [plus pauvre] which has always been neglected, explains Javier Garcia Elorrio, responsible for urban hygiene at the city of Buenos Aires, about this vast territory of more than 2,000 km2, home to 4.5 million people (nearly 10% of the country’s population), half of whom are without sewers. The river, which runs a total of 64 km and crosses fourteen municipalities southwest of Buenos Aires, in addition to the capital, is the historical garbage can of the region.
“More than 4,000 industries are located on its middle and lower reaches, and many of them discharge effluents without treatment”notes the Argentine government in a note dating from 2022 about this area, the most urbanized and industrialized in the country. Among this waste: wastewater from tanneries and heavy metals from the petrochemical sector, discharged into this gently sloping watercourse which then flows into the La Plata River.
Who to seize this file? With a watercourse crossing many municipalities, the province and the city of Buenos Aires, with issues covered by many ministries, the authorities have long ignored the issue or acted without coordination.
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Source: Le Monde