Brazil struggles to transform slums into new communities

10:57, August 04, 2010      

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Those who have seen the movie "Cidade de Deus" might never forget the slums. "Cidade de Deus," highlighted the violence in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro. Slums, as a social problem, have long troubled Brazil and reflect the giant gap between rich and poor in Brazil.

Microcosm of social deprivation

Slums are the products of urbanization in Brazil. Half a century ago, the development of urban industry in Brazil attracted a large number of rural people to rush into the city to earn a living. But as space was limited, the migrant workers were forced to live in the hills on the edge of the city.

And within the development of the urban area, many low-income families were asked to live in the temporary areas located at the outskirts of the cities for city construction. Soon, these temporary settlements turned into ghettos of the urban poor, which became a microcosm of Brazil's poverty.

According to a Brazilian investigation in 2007, about 7 million people lived in city slums, accounting for 3.8 percent of Brazil's whole population and half of the poor people lived in a metropolis. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were the most typical ones.

In the 1960s, the average annual growth rate of the population in Rio de Janeiro was 3.3 percent and the population living in slums hit 7.1 percent. By 2000, more than 1 million people lived in slums in Rio de Janeiro, accounting for 18 percent of the whole population of the city.

Slums, without any sound municipal infrastructure, hospitals or schools, have become the strongholds of many organized criminal groups for their drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other violent criminal activities. It becomes a huge risk for the city's social security.

Huge amounts of money to build a new community

Sao Paulo government resettled 120 poor families to at the outskirts of the city in 1971. And unexpectedly this area fast became a colony of migrant persons. More and more wooden houses form a 100-square-meter slum with 125,000 living there. Since 2005, the Sao Paulo government has invested 135 million Real (about 76.7 million US dollars) to reconstruct the district.

They built municipal infrastructures, public schools and hospitals. Some roads are even paved with asphalt. Around 1,700 low-cost houses benefited many poor families. The mayor of Sao Paulo Gilberto Kassab said "this district is no longer a slum but a well-organized city community."

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