What challenges are associated with the growth of Rio?
As the population of Rio de Janeiro continues to grow rapidly Rio faces many challenges to maintain and improve the quality of life for its residents. Due to its physical geography population density is very high and opportunities for development are limited.
Managing urban growth – slums and squatter settlements
Millions of people have been forced to build their own homes due to the lack of affordable housing. Migrants to the city often have to build homes on land that they do not own. Large squatter settlements are known as favelas tents below Katie Long main roads, on wasteland on very steep hillsides around the edges of the bay. Squatter settlements are almost always found instances in the developing world. They are also known as slums, shantytowns and informal settlements. Over time residents seek to improve these properties however due to then not owning the land there is always a risk of them being demolished.
The residents of Rio’s squatter settlements face many challenges:
- Due to the very high population density in favelas, disease can spread very quickly. Infant mortality rates are very high at 50 per 1000. Often there is limited waste collection which increases the risk of disease
- In the poorest areas, 10% of people do not have access to fresh piped water, and 50% lack proper sanitation which means human waste can follow through the streets. 30% of people have no electricity. In some areas where there is a lack of electricity residents tap into mains electricity illegally which causes frequent power cuts.
- When buildings are first constructed they are sometimes made from waste materials such as wood and corrugated iron.
- Rates of unemployment in favelas are high, while those who are working typically earn a low wage.
- Crime rates in some favelas are very high. Drugs and violent crime are widespread problems.
- As many poor quality houses are built on the side of the hills in Rio they are at risk of landslides. Following heavy rain in 2010 one slide destroyed thousands of homes and 200 people were killed.
Providing energy, clean water and sanitation
Providing energy clean water and sanitation is a significant challenge in Rio.
- It is only recently that the majority of Rio’s residents have access to safe drinking water.
- Seven new water treatment plants and 300 km of new pipes lead to improving water supplies between 1998 and 2014.
- Illegal tapping and leaks lead to one-third of fresh piped water being lost.
- As the city continues to grow new settlements on the edge of the city face the greatest challenges due to the lack of freshwater. In these areas, some residents get freshwater from wells which can be polluted.
- Droughts have increased the pressure on supplying freshwater as reservoirs have dried up.
- A large proportion of people do not have access to toilets flush. Instead, they use pit latrines. This sewage drains into the soil or pours into open drains and rivers.
- It is very challenging to provide areas with proper sanitation due to squatter settlements being so densely constructed.
- An estimated 200 tons of raw sewage pour into Guanabara Bay.
- Power cuts are common in favelas because electric supplies are overloaded. This causes significant problems for hospitals industry and local residents. In squatter settlements, people illegally tap into electricity supplies. This leads to power shortages and can cause fires.
- Rio’s electricity supply will increase by 30% following the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Paraiba do Sul River.
Locals tapping into electric supplies
Providing access to services-Health and education
- Healthcare facilities in Rio are considerably better than those in rural areas however there are still considerable differences in the quality of service between wealthy and poor areas.
- Infant mortality has fallen significantly in some favelas as health kits have been used to detect and treat diseases.
- All children aged 6 to 14 must attend compulsory education in Brazil.
- Only 50% of children continue in education after 14. Many go to work to earn money for their families
- School attendance is low. This is because of the lack of schools and teachers, the distance people need to travel to school and many children work to earn money for their families.
- In Rocinha favela a new University has opened.
Reducing unemployment and crime
- There are huge differences in unemployment across rich and poor areas in Rio.
- Unemployment rates can be greater than 20% in the favelas.
- Around one-third of workers in Rio are in the informal sector completing jobs such as car washing, recycling and street vending. These jobs are poorly paid and can be dangerous.
- People who work in the informal sector do not pay taxes and therefore do not receive insurance cover or unemployment benefits.
- Crime is a major problem in Rio. Drugs, theft and vandalism are major challenges for the police.
- One of the most significant problems in favelas is associated with criminal gangs operating drug trafficking in favelas.
Managing environmental issues
- 3.1 million tons of waste is generated in Rio every year. Most of this is taken to landfills.
- There is a significant difference between waste collection in rich and poor areas there is a forward collection in wealthy districts however in favelas the collection is generally poor. This is because the streets are very narrow and steep so traditional refuse vehicles cannot access some areas.
- Recycling is big business in Rio. Pickers collect recyclable Materials from landfill sites.
- As materials decompose in landfill sites they release gas which is harnessed to fuel vehicles and provide a source of energy for electricity.
- 50% of household waste is organic and is composted.
- Due to its physical geography with steep slopes and mountains, Rio is one of the most congested locations in South America. This has led to high levels of air pollution and commuters spending a lot of time travelling.
- The metro system is being extended to address this problem. Also, road tolls in the city centre are being introduced.
- Tunnels through mountains have also been constructed to improve transport links across the city.