The United Nations dedicates March 22 to the theme of water, so it makes sense for us to take some time to reflect on our most important natural resource. We will deal here with a subject that is little remembered, which is the viability of river transportation on the Tietê River within the city of São Paulo. City dwellers see the river as a source of problems rather than solutions, but is it so impossible to bring a better reality to the Tietê?

Urban planner Marco Aurélio Dawy of Mackenzie Presbyterian University has studied the issue extensively and concluded that the project is not only viable but could bring significant benefits to Sao Paulo. River transportation is the most economical of all modes, generates low pollution, and has both cheaper maintenance and longer service life. Thinking about the various problems with trucks that the city and its neighbors experience every day, this alternative seems interesting in order to diversify transportation in the region.

However, to think about any project involving the Tietê within the city of São Paulo, it is first necessary to address the theme of garbage and river depredation. From Itaquaquecetuba, the Tietê water is already in bad or terrible condition, and in total the river accumulates pollution from 39 cities in the region. Despite some signs of improvement from sewage treatment, irregular occupations around it continue to grow, which steadily increases pollution.

This problem connects with the lack of integrated water management in the region, as much of the pollution originates in cities such as Guarulhos, which have independent water management and a low level of water treatment. Without a coordinated effort to reduce emissions of garbage, chemical wastes and the like in the river, no real revitalization could be planned.

However, it is not the case that this is the first time this kind of restoration would be done in the world, with one particular case popping out, which is South Korea's “Four Rivers Project” in which throughout several years the main rivers of the country were unpolluted and transformed into references of sustainability and access to public goods. We can also mention the largest convention center in Europe, Excell London, situated on the banks of the formerly abandoned Victoria River; In addition to our very near Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires, which was once abandoned, it is now one of the most cosmopolitan places in the city.

We have to take into account that the Tietê and Pinheiros rivers are already major points of displacement within the city of São Paulo, with the Marginal lanes housing both road and rail transportation solutions. The addition of waterway transportation would be one more alternative to perform both metropolitan and inter-metropolitan displacement, generating solutions for both citizens and cargo transportation.

Marco Aurélio Dawy proposes as a model the creation of the Tietê Waterway Complex, located between the Ponte das Bandeiras and Cruzeiro do Sul Avenue. In the urbanist's project, there would be a revitalization of the area, which is currently worn out. It would be possible to take advantage of the potential coming from a clean Tietê to, as noted in the example of South Korea, bring a sustainability reference to the city and generate well-being.

Included in this design are a series of water stops, serving as bus stops that make use of an intelligent platform height adjustment system to provide constant passenger access regardless of water height. This type of solution is interesting not only from the point of view of unburdening heavy traffic, but also generating tourist interest and entertainment potential.

As we noted in this brief article, it is not the case that it is impossible to think of projects like this, as they have already been executed elsewhere. What is lacking is political will coupled with a greater awareness of the population that a polluted river is not simply a lost cause, but something that can with effort be turned into a good for the population.