São Paulo Waterway Ring

Tietê-Paraná Basin in Mercosul Area Tietê-Paraná Basin in Mercosul Area

Traffic jams, greenhouse gas (GHG) and particulates emissions are marks of most major cities in the four corners of the planet. Managing and reducing these emissions is a big challenge for authorities and the society. In the São Paulo Metropolitan Region, the world’s 4th largest metropolis, the challenge is even greater, says Frederico Bussinger, IDELT Consultant, São Paulo Metropolitan Planning Agency (EMPLASA) Board Member, Former Director of São Paulo Waterway Department.

Traffic jams, greenhouse gas (GHG) and particulates emissions are marks of most major cities in the four corners of the planet, especially in the metropolises. Managing and reducing these emissions is a challenge for authorities and for the whole society. Particularly in the case of the São Paulo Metropolitan Region - SPMR, the world’s 4th largest metropolis, this challenge is even greater, says Frederico Bussinger, IDELT Consultant, São Paulo Metropolitan Planning Agency (EMPLASA) Board Member, Former Director of São Paulo Waterway Department.

The São Paulo Metropolitan Region (SPMR) - Highlights

 • Area:                    7,944 km2

• Population:            19.8 million

• GNP:                     US$ 350 billion

• HDI:                       0.828

• Automotive Fleet: 11.1 million registered vehicles (800 new daily). 

 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), transport is responsible for 13% of global GHG emissions. This goes up to 23% when only the energy consumption is considered. For Brazil, this indicator is almost twice that figure (42%) resulting from the combination of an energy matrix based on hydropower, thus "cleaner" than most countries, with a "dirtier" transport matrix, where road transportation represents 2/3 of all transport used.

For Sao Paulo, transport is responsible for about 55% of CO2 emissions, since the population moves under the "1/3 rule" (about 1/3 walk, 1/3 uses collective means, and 1/3 individual transportation); while over 90% of the cargo is moved by roads! The industry figures are impressive: in the SPMR there are more than 25,000 trucks daily trips for the civil works industry (carrying 110 million tons annually) and more than 400,000 supplying the population and keeping the largest economic centre in Latin America running.As a result, traffic jams have become a daily routine for most people, during 5 to 8 peak hours and several times a year. In about 1/3 of the routes monitored, it was found that vehicles move more slowly than the average pedestrian. Thus, mobility has been progressively affected, disturbing the metropolis’ quality of life and economic competitiveness.But alongside this threat, there is an opportunity. Along with this challenge, there is a positive outlook for logistics, environment and metropolitan development of SPMR.

São Paulo Metropolitan Region SPMR is located on a highland, 700 meters above sea level and about 90 km away from the Atlantic Coast and Santos Port (the largest in Latin America). The region is naturally endowed with an extensive water network, significantly amended by several infrastructure works carried out in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Currently rectified, Tiete and Pinheiros rivers are the backbone of the system. Together with Billings and Taiaçupeba Dams, they almost transform the densest part of the metropolis to an island, which could become reality with the construction of a 25 to 30 km channel, linking the two dams. Adding some locks, terminals and a few additional works, a ring shaped metropolitan waterway would be born: 170 to 180 km long, a venture that requires basic infrastructure investments estimated between US$1.2 and 1.5 billion. All these works could be completed by the end of this decade.

The logistic and environmental benefits of deploying this Metropolitan Waterway Ring(“Hidroanel”), and the resumption of navigation in the SPMR, which intensified in the middle of last century, can be controlled as they overlap, both the road and rail ring (which is under construction and to be completed later this decade). These intersections could be located at three strategically chosen points, located at the “doors” of the conurbation - west, east and south, this last one almost halfway to Santos Port. Environmentally, the “Hidroanel” can also be a tool for the "São Paulo Climate State Policy - PEMC", which aims to reduce, by 2020, 20% of emissions for the base-year 2005: that means a reduction of almost 60% of what is expected if nothing is done (“business as usual” criterion). Furthermore, under the umbrella of multiple use of water, which is common in Europe and the USA, the deployment of the “Hidroanel” may contribute to several other urban functions. For example:

Flood control: During summer season, increasingly intense and concentrated rains have historically caused severe flooding in the lower plateau areas. Over the last few decades, dozen of reservoirs, called "Piscinões" (great pools) have been built to store floodwater during rain peaks hours. But the “Hidroanel” reservoirs, which are to be deployed, may have excess capacity and may contribute to transient storage during these periods also. One example is the Penhas’s locks construction, which is to be contracted in the coming months, enabling a 14 km stretch on the existing waterway (41 km) over the Tiete River. However, the reservoir created to assure the navigation may store 3.5 to 10 million m3 (twelve times bigger than the largest existing "Piscinão" today).

Water Supply: The connection between Taiaçupeba and Billings Reservoirs can play a dual role: first, transfer fresh water from the headwaters straight to Billings Dam, one of the metropolis’ water supply structures. Eventually it will also enable to enhance the water transfer to the coastal region, facing a water deficit today, which may be increased with the “Pré-Sal” petroleum exploitation. On the other hand, it can contribute to regulate the rainfall regime in the region: today the 73 m3/s, slightly below the average demand, indicates the need for water sources expansion.

Pinheiros River Depollution: Currently, mainly during rainy season, water is pumped from the polluted Tiete to the Pinheiros River and, from there, to Billings Dam. This pumping may be reduced with the increased volume of the Dam and its levels. Cleaner water, in larger volumes, is important to increase the dilution of Pinheiros River and, thus, for self-purification and dilution of pollution, which is still high, even though sewers are now largely treated.

Agriculture: The metropolis’ eastern region, which accounts for about a quarter of its fruits and vegetables supplies, may have expanded their agricultural area with irrigation made possible by the deployment of the canal which links the two dams.

Power Generation: An efficient hydroelectric, in the coastal region (Henry Borden PowerPlant), has been working for a century, fuelled by Billings Dam water. Currently, due to the lack of water, only 1/3 of its capacity is used - 100% only during peak hours.

Solid waste disposal and processing: Sanitary landfills, used during recent decades, are exhausted. Possible new areas are further away, and logistics are more costly. Solid waste gathering in eco-points, along the waterway, and its barge transportation, opens new possibilities, for both destination and processing, e.g. thermoelectric also deployed at specific points on the banks of the “Hidroanel”.

Leisure and tourism: Until 20 to 30 years ago, Billings Dam, which is located at the edge of the urban centre, was a well-attended water sports centre, home to many sailors, including Olympic medallists. The disorderly occupation of the region, and reduced volumes of water and siltation, hindered the use of the dam for recreation. The same occurred with other dams in the impact area of “Hidroanel”, something that could be reversed with the implementation of this project.

Real Estate: SPMR has difficulties with the cultivation of areas that are endowed with infrastructure and prepared for real estate, both residential and commercial, particularly areas for large-scale enterprises. Along the “Hidroanel” there are numerous areas that have been abandoned due to lack of access or by river pollution. The pre-feasibility study has identified different areas that could be requalified by the project, and contribute to expand the existing real estate stock.

Ultimately, the “Hidroanel” is a plan, a project for the multiple uses of water that can redirect the development of the metropolis, today "back to the rivers", as it is commonly said. This structuring project is able to leverage a new and better cycle of occupation and land development, as well as a new way to plan and manage, to involve and coordinate various units of the State Government, the 39 municipalities within the SPMR, public and private sectors, and NGO: A new governance!

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