After 34 years, Rio de Janeiro finally plans to close the world’s largest open air landfill, its own Jardim Gramacho dump. Environmentalists have long blamed Gramacho — a 5-mile high, 130-hectare site — for the high levels of pollution that now spoil Rio’s Guanabara Bay.
Since opening in 1978, the seaside landfill has caused a lot of environmental damage. There was no lining on the massive landfill’s floor to prevent toxic leaks, and it was unmonitored. This negligence allowed noxious fluids produced by rotting organic materials to stream directly into the bay, which has become unsafe for swimming.
The closing of Gramacho has been in the works for years but has been stopped many times. Now, it is slated to take place just weeks before the United Nations’ Rio+20 megaconference on sustainable development, and in time for Rio to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the Olympics in 2016.
The plans are to transform the dump into a huge facility that will curb production ofgreenhouse gasses, and harness the methane generated by the sludge for fuel capable of heating homes and powering cars.