Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Floods in Brazil are a result of short-term planning

Natalia Viana in the PovertyMatters blog in the Guardian (UK): As I write, more than two weeks after the floods began in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, many communities remain isolated due to landslides on the main access roads.

More than 800 people died and thousands of people have been displaced in the state, according to official figures. One of the worst affected towns is Santa Rita. Dozens of families still depend on helicopters to deliver food, water, and emergency healthcare. In the town of Teresópolis, people are starting to clear debris in the streets by hand, with shovels and brushes. And in Nova Friburgo, families watch, and cry, as their homes are demolished.

…Urban planning has never been part of the political agenda. Governments react, rather than plan and prevent. The ministry in charge of monitoring urban planning, the Ministry of Cities, was only created in 2003. The Supreme Court is still deciding if all cities will have to set out and follow an urban plan as defined in 1988 in new federal constitution.

But nothing has changed. Just after the floods, the government said it would set up a national system to prevent disasters – which won't be fully working for four years. The Plano de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC) – the national "plan of growth acceleration" – released two years ago as the major project for infrastructure works, provides about £4.4bn for disaster containment. Most will be used for drainage, but containment caps for hills will also be built.

"These are emergency works purely to reduce the repetition of tragedies," says Celso Carvalho, the national secretary of urban programmes. "Our cities are very insecure because of the failure to apply urban planning."…

Rescue work after the floods in Brazil, shot by Vladimir Platonow/ABr, Wikimedia Commons via Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency, under the Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil

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