Zipline on Rio’s iconic mountain protested

Zipline on Rio’s iconic mountain protested

Zipline on Rio’s iconic mountain protested

Some 200 protesters gathered beneath Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Sugarloaf Mountain to protest the ongoing construction of ziplines aimed at boosting tourism, alleging it will cause unacceptable impacts.

The four steel lines will run 755 meters over the forest between Sugarloaf and Urca Hill, and riders will reach speeds of 100 km/h. Inauguration is scheduled for the second half of this year, and an online petition to halt works has been signed by almost 11,000 people.

Sugarloaf, known in Portuguese as Pao de Açucar, juts out of the earth at the entrance to Rio’s bay. The U.N.’s heritage center named it a World Heritage Site in 2012 along with Rio’s other marquee mountains and, years earlier, Brazil’s heritage institute designated it a national monument.

The cable cars to its summit draw hundreds of thousands of Brazilian and international tourists each year, all eager to take in the panoramic views of the sprawling city’s beaches and forested mountains.

It is also a popular spot for sport climbing and birdwatching with preserved Atlantic Forest in a conservation unit, which towers over the sleepy Urca neighborhood. As such, the prospect of riders buzzing down wires while screaming wildly has united mountaineers, environmental activists and residents in opposition.

They caution UNESCO could withdraw its heritage status. One protester on March 26 held a sign reading, “S.O.S. UNESCO,” and the group often broke out into chants of “Zipline out!”

“We are completely opposed to the transformation, which in truth has been happening for some time, of the summits of Urca Hill and Sugarloaf into an entertainment hub,” said André Ilha, a former director of biodiversity and protected areas of Rio state’s environment institute and founder of environmental non-profit Ecological Action Group.

“This is inducing people to go there for reasons that aren’t why the cable car was conceived: To appreciate the landscape,” he said.

Parque Bondinho Pao de Açúcar, which operates the cable cars and is behind the 50-million reais ($9.5 million) project, said in a statement that sound tests indicate noise from riders will not be perceptible from below, nor will it affect climbing routes. It says it has obtained all the necessary authorizations and licenses for the project from the national heritage institute and municipal authorities, And it touts the ability to drive tourism.