Get to know the Capibaribe

(source: Flickr)

“The Capibaribe River is a river located in Pernambuco and is 149 miles long. Its basin is approximately 2,270 miles squared and it has about 74 tributaries, bathing 42 municipalities of Pernambuco. The Capibaribe originates in the Serra do Jacarará, in the municipality of Poção, and flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The word Capibaribe derives from the Tupi kapibara (capybara), y (water, river) and pe (in), meaning Capybara River.” [1]

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 1.18.08 PM(a ‘rough’ trajectory I made of the river through Pernambuco)

The river’s historic importance lies in its use by sugarcane barons and the very fertile massapê soil found along its banks. Without it, the state would have likely developed at a snail’s pace. Today, many farmers make use of the precious resource to grow their crops and therefore provide for their families. However, much like the story of the Tietê in São Paulo, the river starts out clean, fresh and useful but at some point it reaches “civilization” where everything goes downhill. Once the Capibaribe passes Poço Fundo in the city of Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, it becomes “severely degraded by siltation and pollution due to waste from slaughterhouses, landfills, as well as due to urban and industrial sewage.” In fact, the slaughterhouses and laundry businesses there make the river, at different times, red or blue, respectively.

For more information on this important river, see the news reports (PT) below. For efforts to change the perception of how the river is used, see the “Capibaribe” project or the “Recapibaribe” project. In the very near future, I’ll be writing about another kind of project involving the river.


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