Saturday, June 13, 2009

the cage

Squatters vs. nature? Or squatters vs. the rest of society. That's the question raised by the walls currently being built around many favelas in Rio. An article from Independent Press Service gives details on the compromise in Rocinha, where the government agreed to build walls that are 4 feet high, rather than the 9 feet planned for other favelas.

Some important environmental details:
The Atlas of Forest Remnants of the Mata Atlântica, produced by the SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation and the National Institute for Space Research, revealed last month that the state of Rio de Janeiro alone had lost 176,714 hectares of this ecosystem since 1985.

According to the study, the annual rate of deforestation nearly doubled in the last three years. Today, Rio has just 18 percent of the forests that once stood in the state.

Fires, urban expansion and human occupation are the main causes of deforestation in Rio, SOS Mata Atlântica director Marcia Hirota said in an interview for this article.

But the Foundation does not believe that the "pressure on the native vegetation" comes only from the favelas. There are also luxury condominiums, homes and hotels, as well as "other types of occupation that suppress the native plant cover," Hirota said.

A study by the municipal Pereira Passos Institute indicates that half of the city's 750 favelas, which are home to 1.5 million people, doubled in size between 1994 and 2004.

True enough, but the favelas have, so far as I know, only kept pace with the city's growth, so that it's still true that approximately 1 in five residents of Rio lives in a favela, as it was five and even ten years ago. Which would mean that the government should be walling in rich neighborhoods too.

I tend to sympathize with Luisa, a Rocinha resident quoted in the article: "The wall isn't for separating the trees, it's for separating out the poor....They say it's a park, but down there, in the middle and upper class city, nature parks aren't cages."


Anonymous said...

Dear Robert,

I am currently working on TV documentary here in the UK on slums.

I would very much like to get in touch. My email is

Kind regards - Seb

lifeinrocinha said...

feel free to contact me as well. I am writing a Blog about my life in Rocinha.