Story 2.13

Bringing a River Back to Life

Improving the Quality of Water of the São Domingos River

Catanduva, the capital of Brazil’s ceiling fan industry, is located in the exuberant hinterland of the state of São Paulo and is home to 120,000 people. Catanduva is one of the most promising regional economic centers in Northern São Paulo, thanks to its bustling service industry and household appliance manufacturing industry. In spite of Catanduva’s booming economy, for decades the city neglected one of its most valuable resources, the São Domingos River.

The river runs through the city of Catanduva and is part of the region’s most important water basin, the Turvo Grande Basin. Until recently, Catanduva poured almost all of its sewage into the river. As pollution increased, the vegetation near the banks of the São Domingos River slowly stopped growing. The city urgently needed to find a solution to clean the river and bring it back to life.

In 2009, the city of Catanduva obtained a US$8.4 million sovereign guaranteed (SG) loan from the IDB to supplement the financing of an ambitious US$26 million initiative known as the Catanduva Integrated Development Program. The program’s goal was to expand the city’s green spaces and leisure areas and find a lasting solution to restore the São Domingos River.

Through the program, the city’s sewage treatment system was completed and a sewage treatment plant was constructed. Today, the plant treats 100 percent of the municipality’s sewage. Catanduva has joined a select group of Brazilian cities that collect and treat 100 percent of their local municipal sewage.

The quality of the water in the São Domingos River and its ability of sustain aquatic life have also improved. One indicator of water quality, the biochemical oxygen demand, plunged from 73mg per liter to 4.9mg per liter. The river’s ability to sustain aquatic life, measured by the average dissolved oxygen in the water, rose from 0.89mg per liter to 5.1mg per liter.

The program also modernized the operations, processes, and services of the local sanitation agency, the Catanduva Water and Sanitation Superintendence (known as SAEC, for its initials in Portuguese). The SAEC, which had been troubled by inefficiencies in service provision, now runs a revenue surplus, and built a new headquarters with revenues it had generated.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the program financed the rehabilitation of important areas of the city. The Mandaçai, Ipês, and Aeroporto Parks were built. And Catanduva’s emblematic Ninth of July Square, located in the heart of the city, received a makeover, offering more leisure space for the inhabitants of Catanduva. Now Catanduva is known not only known as Brazil’s ceiling fan capital but as the city that brought the São Domingos River back to life.

Story by:
Marcia Maria Silva Casseb, urban development and sanitation lead specialist in the Housing and Urban Development Division at the IDB.

This story is based on the Project Completion Report of the sovereign-guaranteed (SG) loan BR-L1171, which closed in December 2014.

Continue reading Chapter 2 - Protecting the Environment, Responding to Climate Change, Promoting Renewable Energy, and Enhancing Food Security