Posts Tagged ‘shantytowns’

Rio Floods: Fixing Favelas and the Future

April 9, 2010

At least 170 people died after a week of heavy rain prompted mudslides and floods in Rio de Janeiro state. More than 50 houses were engulfed as mud and rubble poured into the Morro do Bumba favela near Rio de Janeiro. The shantytown was built on top of a disused landfill which makes it prone to landslides.

Most of the victims were swept away in landslides that roared through favelas (slums) built on steep, unstable hillsides. The tragic affects of the floods do not touch tourist areas.

With the images of the deadly mudslides and flooding in Rio de Janerio circling the globe, the Brazilian government has sought to preempt any ideas that rains risk turning the preparations or the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games themselves into debacles.

In a conference call with international reporters this week Brazilian Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo said funds were being marshaled to repair damages from the flooding in Rio and elsewhere (other Brazilian population centers have also been lashed by floods lately). In the call, Bernardo said 7 billion reais ($3.9 billion) had already been set aside for recovery of flood-stricken areas as part of the government’s pro-economic growth package.

He also said that investments will be made in sanitation, housing and infrastructure so that Rio and other cities will be better prepared for heavy rains in the future.

“So the government is not predicting—is not foreseeing any type of major hindrance or disaster in this regard because all the measures are being taken … We do not foresee any natural disasters … during the World Cup or the Olympic Games because … they will be held … outside the rain season in Rio de Janeiro particularly.”

On Thursday, the government also announced it was dispatching some $100 million in emergency funds as well as a new fleet of ambulances and medical systems to help Rio de Janeiro cope with the impact of the flooding.

For more maps of the areas around Rio, click HERE.

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Brazil’s Favela Conditions Improving

March 25, 2010

A United Nations report published ahead of the Fifth World Urban Forum in Brazil says the proportion of the population of Brazil living in “favelas” or shantytowns was reduced 16 percent between 2000 and 2010.

In Brazil, a country of 192 million people, those that have escaped slum conditions annually over the last decade did so as a result of slum upgrading. Most of the families in this country who have left behind their status as slum dwellers actually stayed in the favelas, but with more services and urban infrastructure, or neighboring municipalities and the outskirts of cities.

Geographer Jailson de Souza, founder of the Observatorio de Favelas, a social organization that carries out research on Brazil’s shantytowns, and who is currently secretary of education in the Rio de Janeiro municipality of Nova Iguaçu, said the term “favela” is not necessarily synonymous with “slum.”

“U.N. experts might not consider some of our most populous neighbourhoods informal settlements or slums,” he said, citing La Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, classified by some as a lower middle-class or working-class neighbourhood.

He said that what has been seen in Brazil is “a steady improvement in living conditions in the favelas, which does not mean a reduction in the number of people living in those areas.”

In fact, some of the country’s favelas have even expanded in size, such as those of Rio de Janeiro, the second-biggest Brazilian city after São Paulo to the south.

According to the Pereira Passos municipal institute, between 1999 and 2008, the surface area covered by favelas in Rio de Janeiro expanded by around three million square meters.

And the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported that in 2008, one-third of Brazil’s 5,554 municipalities contained favelas.

But many of these neighborhoods experienced improvements, as a result of spending on housing by governments – which has increased although it has not kept up with demand – and of rising income and employment, which has “enabled workers to spend more on their homes and seek new housing alternatives,” de Souza said.

Today, the middle class absorbs more than 50 percent of total income in Brazil, compared to one-third in 1992, he pointed out. Between 2003 and 2008, some 32 million people experienced an improvement in their socioeconomic status, including 2.6 million who joined the consumers market for the first time, the economist said.

And according to the U.N. Habitat report, the number of Brazilians living in slums was reduced by 10.4 million people over the last decade, with the most significant improvement being seen in sanitation.

The report refers to certain socioeconomic policies that have been adopted and mentions the drop in the birth rate and in rural-to-urban migration in Brazil, although it notes that 54 million people still live in favelas.