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Problem of the Day: 'Too Much Beer, Too Many People and Never Enough Toilets'

Rio grapples with a public urination problem during Carnival.


It's a city known for throwing great parties. But with great parties, comes great responsibility.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has been trying to call attention to a critical problem: public urination during the Carnival street parades, attended by millions on the eve of Lent. More than 800 men and women have been arrested since the celebration began on January 20. And they are none-too-happy about it. Reuters reports:

"Nobody likes the mess, but I don't know how you can punish someone for doing something they must do," said Joao Pimentel, author of the 2002 book Blocos, about Rio's street Carnival.

Apparently, a judge agrees. In 2011, he threw out a public urination charge, saying a person's biological needs "trumped Rio's public-order campaign." But the mayor says without the arrests, the city will descend into smelly chaos.

"There's too much beer, too many people and never enough toilets even if you could get to one in time," Pimentel said.

Those 400 toilets, one for every 5,500 people, would have begun overflowing if only about 1 in 8 of the Bola Preta revellers used one, said Joao Aveleira, a medical doctor and Carnival enthusiast who founded the Suvaco do Cristo (Christ's Armpit) Carnival group 25 years ago. The parade takes place under the outstretched right arm of Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue.

Photo credit: Nacho Doce/Reuters

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.