Art Intervention Lights Up One of the World's Most Polluted Rivers in Buenos Aires

© Paula Alvarado.

As part of the cultural activity Museums’ Night, Spanish artist Sigismond de Vajay presented the intervention Spiders over the Riachuelo last Satuday: a lightning and music show which sought to attract the public eye to one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

Located south of Buenos Aires, the Riachuelo is the final leg of the Matanza River, a body of water 64 km long that empties into the Rio de la Plata which has become one of the dirtiest in the planet. Its contamination began when slaughterhouses and tanneries from the area began to pour waste in early 1800, and many cleaning plans have been announced with no results ever since.

© Paula Alvarado

But history might be changing at last. In July 2008, the Supreme Court of Argentina ruled that national, provincial and city authorities were responsible for the damage pollution of the river could cause to over five million inhabitants of the area, and stated that they had the obligation to improve the quality of life of these people and restore the water, air and soil.

Since then, a recovery plan overseen by an organism called Acumar has been implemented. According to data released by the agency, so far they have closed 134 landfills that were installed in the area, shut down 167 companies that were polluting the river, taken 57 sunk ships off the water, and cleaned 242 kilometers of margins.

© Paula Alvarado

On a social level, they’ve provided drinking water for over one million people and connected to the sewerage network another 760 thousand. They’ve also re-located more than 13 thousand families, among other measures.

It’s still to be seen if the stream will follow in the footsteps of Spanish Nervión River, which after a century of intense industrial activity was restored in 15 years and today is clean and full of aquatic life.

© Paula Alvarado

For starters, it’s interesting that new cultural activities like Saturday’s show are turning people’s eyes to the water again, and recovering this forgotten space for the public.

A part of the project Of Bridges & Borders, the show Spiders over the Riachuelo was a lightning installation accompanied by performances of the musicians Buenos Aires Sonora, Biosphere (Norway) and Scanner (England).

© Paula Alvarado

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Tags: Argentina | Arts | Buenos Aires | Pollution | Rivers

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