Saving threatened habitats worldwide

The importance of the Atlantic Forest as a water source

8 August, 2016 - 15:45 -- World Land Trust
Guapiaçu river, REGUA
Sewage plumes in Rio

The joint project between World Land Trust (WLT) and Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) to conserve Atlantic Forest in Brazil is important not just for the survival of wildlife living in the forest, but also the water supply of the people living in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The REGUA reserve protects a large portion of the Guapiaçu River’s watershed, which means that the water used by local communities has come from the land they protect. The quality and quantity of river water is directly related to the amount of healthy forest cover in the tropics, so conservation of the Atlantic Forest  is vital for the communities living downstream of the forest’s water sources.

Nicholas Locke, President of REGUA, says “The Guapiaçu River is a life line for the Guanabara Bay of Rio de Janeiro, the stunning bay in which the Beagle was anchored in 1832.  The WLT Olympic Forest Reserve is just one wonderful bit of forest which strengthens REGUA’s mission in safeguarding a habitat which contributes to the quality of this river.”

Rio’s water quality problem

There has been much concern surrounding the Rio Olympics as scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro found the high levels of viruses and drug-resistant bacteria in the water surrounding the shores of Guanabara Bay, which is the sailing venue during the games.

Despite making a commitment to clean up Guanabara Bay before the start of the Olympics, it appears that the bay continues to collect untreated sewage from the metropolis, including waste from hospitals in the city.  

REGUA’s involvement in the clean up

The ‘Cleaning the Guanabara Bay’ project has been dragging along for more than twenty years, with little to show for the billion dollars invested in it. One of the new approaches is being headed by a corporation (KCI) which has mapped the various water sources of the bay, including the Guapiaçu and Macacu river systems.

Decontaminating Guanabara Bay is a complex task which will require socio-economic and infrastructural changes, particularly improvements to sewage treatment, but conserving water sources is an important aspect of the endeavour.  REGUA is working to gain recognition by the Regional Water Committee for Rio so they can work directly with the agencies behind the Guanabara Bay clean-up project.     

Nicholas adds “At the end of the day, REGUA as a local organisation is in a great position to work alongside the Government by firstly mapping the rivers, identifying the owners and then encouraging them to plant and protect their riparian forests. A local organization has much greater presence and insight within the local community.”

More information

WLT has been working with the founders of REGUA since 1998 to save the Atlantic Forest in the Guapiaçu watershed, and now REGUA owns and protects over 18,000 acres. 

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