Interview with head of acumar jorge calzoniSunday, July 13, 2014
‘There’s still a lot to be done but the river clearly looks better’
The Supreme Court ruling six years ago that forced the cleanup of the Riachuelo not only forced the federal government to present a detailed plan to clean the river but also led to the creation of ACUMAR, an inter-jurisdictional entity that is now the highest authority on managing the cleaning process.
In an interview with the Herald, the head of ACUMAR Jorge Calzoni analyzed what has been done over the past six years and says that even though progress has been made “there’s still a long way to go.” Calzoni points the finger at the Buenos Aires City and provincial governments for failing to send the funds they were supposed to, arguing against those who say harsher regulations are needed.
What’s your evaluation of the progress that has been made in the six years since the Supreme Court ruling?
I can’t say everything is great, that would be a lie. There’s still a lot that has to be done but the Riachuelo clearly looks better. The water surface is cleaner, old ships have been removed and relocations have begun.
So you aren’t satisfied with what has been done so far?
It’s a gradual process and there won’t be a quick solution. Six years ago the water surface was a disaster and now it’s much better. But it’s true that some indicators have improved more than others.
Why has it taken so much time to show any real progress in the cleaning of the Riachuelo?
The Riachuelo is in different jurisdictions with different political leaders and reaching a consensus can be hard sometimes. There are things that depend on us but others that don’t.
So how’s the dialogue now between Buenos Aires City, province and the federal government? NGOs have complained funds have been sent slowly.
Yes, we’ve had these types of problems but now there’s a good dialogue between all the districts. We try to reach a consensus to move forward but it’s not easy. It’s true we’ve faced some difficulties and that there are discussions on which we would like to move faster.
Difficulties such as?
There have been problems with the funds. The jurisdictions haven’t always sent what they were supposed to
And is that solved now?
Not yet, we are working but not all the money has been sent and the federal government had to put more money to cover the deficit.
Are there delays in moving the people from the polluted land areas?
Yes, there are. But it’s not a problem of building the houses, we need agreements that are hard to reach. There are people who want to keep on living close to their current residence.
And what about the pending sewer works? The construction of the sewer collector on the left margin of the river hasn’t started yet
That specific work had a complex call for tenders process and is now moving forward. We hope to start the construction next year and it will take five years to complete.
The Buenos Aires City Environmental Agency asked this week for more strict regulations on industrial spills. Do you agree harsher rules are needed?
I don’t, it’s not an important issue. The current legislation works fine and is based on the rules on other cities with similar rivers. The Riachuelo has been polluted for more than 200 years and that won’t be solved with stricter regulations.
Are industries willing to change their standards to stop polluting?
I’m not happy about the current situation. We’ve had to shut down several industries and force them to present conversion plans. If they fail to do so, they have to close their doors permanently. There are illegal spills so we want to use cameras to control that.