Brazil’s Ministry of Cities will implant the Habitar Brasil (Inhabit Brazil) program for the urbanization of favelas (shantytowns) in over 30 locations throughout the country, including Rio and São Paulo.
The contracts have already been signed, and infrastructure projects in areas such as water and sanitation, together with home improvement, are expected to get underway in the second half of the year, benefiting 24 thousand families.
The plan is to spend US$ 118.2 million (313.5 million reais). Through this effort the program will expand to reach 400 thousand people who live in 119 shantytowns in 25 Brazilian states.
Since 2003, resources from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) have financed investments of US$ 222 million (R$ 589 million) in the program.
According to the director of the Department of Urbanization and Precarious Settlements in the National Secretariat of Housing, Inês Magalhães, besides bettering the infrastructure, the project intends to encourage social mobilization.
She affirmed that through the program it is hoped that families will achieve emancipation, through the generation of jobs and income, community organization, and environmental sanitary education.
82% of the Brazilian population currently lives in cities. Urbanization has picked up in the country over the last 50 years – up to the middle of the past century, the majority of the population resided in rural areas.
The urbanization process in Brazil was rapid and chaotic, and, nowadays, a third of the country’s population is concentrated in only nine metropolitan regions, while only 20% of the population occupies the great majority (72%) of the country’s more than 5 thousand municipalities.
This uncontrolled urban growth has caused problems, such as the lack of housing, transportation, and sanitation. To face the problem the federal government created, October 2003, the National Council of Cities, with representatives of society and municipal and state governments. The goal is to give these segments greater participation in the formulation and implantation of government policies.
The council is be made up, principally, of representatives of all social segments present in the cities, such as popular movements and representative entities of workers, businessmen, and public and private concessionaries, according to the Ministry of Cities.
The shortage of housing in the Brazil amounts, currently, to 6 million dwellings. In just 10 years, between 1980 and 1990, the number of people living in shantytowns all over Brazil more than doubled, from 2.2 million to 5 million. Currently, 98% of the cities with over 500 thousand inhabitants have shantytowns.
Areas of risk – trashfills, watersheds, hillsides (which can topple), and riversides (which can flood) – end up providing alternatives to the lack of housing.
Over the past 15 years, over 1.3 thousand people have died in 45 Brazilian cities alone as a result of landslides during rainy periods, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
Another consequence of the housing shortage is the illegal occupation of public and private land. Most land developments are occupied by low-income residents, but, in recent years, irregular condominiums for the wealthy reveal the other facet of the absence of control over public land.
Approximately 60 million Brazilians do not have access to sewage removal services. Around 15 million people also lack treated, piped water, and another 16 million do not have garbage collection.
The treatment of wastes is precarious, doing damage to the environment and to the health of the population. According to data from the Ministry of Cities, nearly 75% of sewage in Brazil is released into rivers and on beaches without any treatment.
The treatment of garbage also represents a challenge to urban planners. Around 64% of the municipalities deposit garbage in open-air dumps, and many municipalities have no urban sanitation service at all.
The lack of efficient public transportation has led to an increase in the number of private vehicles and irregular means of transportation, especially in the big cities. As a result, urban centers are facing growing problems of traffic congestion. Besides increasing the time spent on travel, this adds to pollution.
The great concentration of vehicles and the lack of investment in infrastructure, road maintenance, supervision, and educational campaigns are the chief causes of traffic accidents.
According to a survey done by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea), over 20 thousand people were killed in traffic accidents in 2001. Of Brazil’s more than five thousand municipalities, fewer than 10% have departments to supervise traffic.