Dead fish stink up Rio's Carnival

Polluted harbor has partyers holding their noses.

Published March 16, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Thousands of Brazilians and foreign tourists flocked to Rio de Janeiro last week to hear the beat of the samba, to see nearly naked bodies clad with strategically placed sequins and to drink an endless flow of caipirinhas.

They didn't come to smell dead fish. Too bad, because those who ventured near the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, between downtown Rio and the crowded beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, were quickly enveloped in an upchuck-inducing stench.

The view wasn't so nice, either: The lagoon was completely covered with 30 tons of dead fish lying belly up, fin to fin.

According to a BBC report, the fish were poisoned by human waste that leaked from a ruptured sewage line that runs under the lagoon and empties out at sea. The lagoon's natural resources manager, Mario Moscatelli, told the news service that the poisonous dreck was from nearby homes and businesses. Jair Otero, director of the Urban Cleaning Operations unit, blamed the carnage on government officials who ignored an incident in December, in which 4 tons of fish died in the lagoon because of the same leak.

Brazilian officials have now promised to fix the faulty waste system, but greed may be their motivation rather than concern for the environment. Coveted tourist dollars were lost during the city's Carnival, when the smell had motorists speeding through the area as fast as they could, steering clear of the numerous local cafes, restaurants and shops.

As Rio engineer Alexandre Simoes remarked to the BBC, "The smell was insufferable."

By J.A. Getzlaff

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