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Residents protest zipline on Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain

AP – 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 metres over the forest between Sugarloaf and Urca Hill, and riders will reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour.

Inauguration is scheduled for the second half of this year, and an online petition to halt work 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 United Nations (UN) heritage centre 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.

A child holds a sign that reads in Portuguese ‘Sugar Loaf Mountain is an environmental protection area. Not the zip line,’ during a protest against the installation of a zip line on Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO: AP

As such, the prospect of riders buzzing down wires while screaming wildly has united mountaineers, environmental activists and residents in opposition. They caution the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) could withdraw its heritage status.

“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 a former director of biodiversity and protected areas of Rio state’s environment institute and founder of environmental non-profit Ecological Action Group André Ilha.

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

Many residents of Urca are likewise displeased. “We live in a small, peaceful neighbourhood. There will be visual and audible impact; no one goes down a zipline in silence,” said president of a residents association Aurimar dos Prazeres. “And it isn’t one zipline. It’s four of them. One hundred people going down each hour. That’s craziness, and very big impact.”

Parque Bondinho Pao de Açúcar, which operates the cable cars and is behind the BRL50 million (USD9.5 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 authorisations and licences for the project from the national heritage institute and municipal authorities, and it touts the ability to drive tourism.

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