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Brazil moves to reduce disaster risk as severe rainfall worsens

Increasingly heavy summer rainfall, linked to changing climate conditions, is taking a worsening toll on Brazil. Just this month, 30 people died when heavy rain caused landslides in Petrópolis, a city located in the highlands of Rio de Janeiro state.

Such cases are becoming more common around the country. In São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, at least two people died this summer due to urban flooding. And in January 2011, also in Rio de Janeiro state’s highlands, more than 1,000 people were killed by massive landslides and flooding.

The growing threat is driving officials in São Paulo and Rio, the two richest states in Brazil, to look for solutions to avoid worsening loss of life.


One measure adopted by the city of São Paulo is creating gigantic water reservoirs known as “big pools” (“piscinões”). This method – which is used in other countries like Japan and the United States – channels rain water that fall into the sewers directly to the reservoirs, and from there it is pumped slowly to the sewage system. This delays the water flowing directly into the rivers, reducing the risk of flooding.

Today São Paulo has 20 “piscinões” fully operating, able to contain up to a combined 5 million cubic meters of water, or enough to fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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