According to recent United Nation’s projections, the most populous cities in the world are predominantly found in the less developed countries (LDC). Besides, the forecast also estimates that cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are likely to host over 12 million and 22 million people respectively within their metropolitan region (Pamuk & Cavallieri, 1998). Arguably, these cities and others in LDC nations are likely to experience population increase phenomenon as a result of tremendous economic transformation coupled with globalization trends, such as urbanization and industrialization. Globalization has a significant impact on a country’s economic growth, such as the rise of industrial parks comprising of multinationals companies, increased concentration of financial service providers within a city, and theestablishment of technological based service providers. Besides, there is an insatiable growth in political and social equality that is fueled by the effects on international agencies and governments. In fact, globalization opens a country to general trends ingovernance, better economic policies, opentrade, and cultural diversity. That said, despite thesignificant positiveimpacts of globalization, such as economic growth, cultural integration, industrialization, and urbanization, there are also challenges that come along. These problems are mostly evident in cities, especially those in LDC countries. As such, Rio de Janeiro is an example of a city in LDC that experiences adverse effects of globalization including poverty,housing problem, insecurity, and environmental degradation. Therefore, this paper will attempt to deconstruct the attendant social issues that are a consequence of the interaction between globalization, poverty on the demographics, and architecture of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Further, the paper will discuss the effects of the proliferation of slums, or favelas,and the driving forces behind the rise of such informal settlement.
City of Rio de Janeiro and Globalization
Brazil was under the grip of a dictatorial government for two decades from the early1960until mid-1980. By the year 1990, Brazil had achieved full democracy, and the process of transforming the nation into a formidable economic hub in Latin America had begun in earnest. Hitherto these developments, the country was in a seriouseconomic crisis coupled with high inflation; that had reached doubledigits and a stagnating economy where its local currency performance had nose-dived to record lows against major currencies (Perlman, 2007). In a bid to address the widespread economic problems, the country established measures and policies that would increase free trade activities within the region and also with other global economies. Consequently, between 1990 and 2006, Brazil had risen to a middle-income economy with massive industrialization and urban development. Free trade markets coupled with consolidated monetary stability and free currency policies brought in global industries and people from all walks of life to Rio de Janeiro, primarily due to its strategic location that supports industrial and business growth. What is more, the city also had achieved its status as a global tourist destination because of its scenic beauty and cosmopolitan culture that is highly diversified. However, the transformation of the city intoa business, industrial and tourism hub, was punctuated by an unprecedented surge in population growth. The bulging population heralded major problems to the city,the most significant being housing and sanitation. Rural to urban and city-to-city migrations are largely touted as the primary factors that exacerbate an increasein population; and in effect, the insatiable growth of informal settlements as residents look for cheaper and affordable housing. Besides, there has beenescalating demand for housing and other services thus subduing the social planning mechanisms of the city’s administration. Most of thelow-class citizens opted to find refuge in neighboring hillsides of the city where they build informal housing called favelasas a result of thebulgingdemand for housing in the larger Rio metropolis.In that regard, the slum structures have become an identifying feature in Rio due to the large population of people living in these settlements. Statistics show that approximately 5 million residents reside on the slums forming more than a quarter or over 30% percent of the total urban population in Brazil (Davis, 2006). Rio accounts for the biggest cluster with over 2 million slums dwellers of the total slum population. The favelas are characterized by an amalgam of dilapidated housing, overcrowding, poverty, the prevalence of disease outbreaks, and poor infrastructure and public service provisions (Davis, 2006). Slum prevalence in Rio may not be attributed to globalization since informal settlements existed before the 1990s, but it has played a key role in exacerbating the growth of slums.
Characteristic of Favelas
Poverty and Social Exclusion
Arguably, poverty and social exclusions are the key features that define life in slums. Rio de Janeiro’s favelasare a classic example of how poverty and social exclusion can make a city turn into shanty structures. Although most of thesefavelasare located in the outer city and proximity to industrial parks, they are spread out across the geography of the city. Ideally, the lands that these favelassit on are grabbed public places and due to increased population and other push and pull factors; low-income people resorted to grabbing public land to construct temporary housing or corticos(Xavier & Magalhães, 2003). These communities have been excluded for far too long by policy-makers to the point that the sprawling of slums has created a greater problem in infrastructure development and service delivery. Most of these slum areas in Rio are not accessible by road because of congestions and overcrowding. What is more, essential services, such as sewage and water provision, street lighting, and communication, are lacking. The social exclusions can be linked to public neglect and lack of government commitments in solving prevalence of slum problems and reducing poverty. According to demographic studies, the poverty index in Brazil, in particular Rio, is high suggesting that most people who live in slums have low purchasing power; and therefore, they are not able to cater for their essential services (Powell, 2016). Also, due to government’s incompetence, the bourgeoisies are given more attention in service provisions and infrastructure development because they are wealthy and influential to the politics of the city than the poor citizens. As such, lack of provisions for public service is highly connected to poverty in these slum environments.
Housing is a crucial concern in Rio because of increasing population. Most inner city areas are highly occupied and congested with few areas allocated for the influential citizens. The favelas are forced to develop houses in outer cities, near industrial parks, and in hill sites. Consequently, due to lack adequate land, construction of crowded and poorly ventilated corticos on public land is prominent. Most of these houses are built in fragile environments, and they have several floors with no sturdy foundation. What is more, the housing units are substandard and unhealthy living milieuaccording to the international standards of housing (UNHABITAT, 2003). For this reason, most of these houses in favelaslack sufficient and clean water, sanitation, visibility, pathways, and dumping or sewer facilities. They are merely temporary structures that cannot withstand the test of time and are likely to be destroyed by catastrophes, such as earthquakes and landslides. The problem of proper housing has been a challenge to the government and city municipality for too long. Several measures have been tried but with minimal success due to lack of comprehensive plans and commitments. Such efforts include the Favela-Bairro project,whichwas aimed at providing people with the capacity to build concrete, permanent houses in the favelas(Pamuk & Cavallieri, 1998). The challenges that were envisioned in this project included the lack tenure or de facto tenure of state-owned land that was sold to settlers by powerful politicians and criminal cartels who have grabbed public land and subdivided into irregular plots (Davis, 2006). These challenges have made the project ubiquitous because the settlers hold no right to own state land and more so, the problem of having multiple ownership on the same piece of land causing endless legal battles and in the process halting the continuity of the project.
Crimes and Insecurity
Crime prevalence in Brazil cannot be said to be a post-military rule phenomenon though the advent of globalization exacerbated the effects of insecurity and gang wars. Ideally, during the military despotism, the Junta desired to eliminate slums and squatter settlements in Brazil through pacification of the informal settlements. The ruling elite then perceived these settlements to be breeding ground for politicalresistanceand one of the biggest challenges to the military rulers. In this regard, plans were hatched by the military elite to curb the growth of slums and pacify the existing ones in cities and rural areas across Brazil(Veríssimo, 2016). Rio was the primary target since it had seen a sporadic growth of favelas,and it was a city with large middle-class neighborhoods.As a result, class related conflicts were occasionally experienced during the authoritarian rule. The operation christened “eliminating slums from Rio within a decade,” did not bear the intended fruits but opened a rage of conflict between faveladwellers, particular the youths and the Rio police departments (Davis, 2006, p. 108). Crime became a new way of life and a means of livelihood for the young people whowere largely marginalized during the military rule (Davis, 2006). Consequently, gangs comprising of younger adults have grown to unprecedented levels in the favelas. These gangs have incessantly been terrorizing people within the inner city and the surrounding suburbs, committing crimes ranging from robbery with violence, murders, and drug peddling. Further, substance abuse and drug peddling have been a major problem, which has escalated to untamable levels given that cartels and wealthy drug peddlers have been colluding with police and law enforcement authorities for protection. The scaling level of corruption in the country is the reasons for the insecurity and crime delinquency. For example, during Rio Olympic in 2016, broad daylight robberies, muggings, and pick pocketing, which were meted on visitors and residents along the Rio streets and sportsavenues, were witnessed through media. It appeared that the police departments were not well prepared or organized in facilitating security, but this has been a continuing problem in all parts of Brazil, not only Rio. The favelashave harbored serial criminals and because of infrastructural challenges, high unemployment, increasing population and drug abuse, police, and other law enforcement authorities have had a rough time while enforcing the law in these areas. The gangs are notoriously protective, and reports have indicated several cases of gang attacks on law enforcement agents (Davis, 2006).
Environmental Degradation and Catastrophes
The location of Rio makes the city a beautiful and aesthetic environment with immense biological life. However, beneath the veneer of well-kept streets, spruced up residential areas, and pristine beaches, lies a decaying environment due tounmanaged raw sewage disposals, discardedchemical, and non-biodegradables, air pollution, amplified by natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes and landslides (Schwartzman, 2003). Pollution in Rio is an immense problem that is likely to affect both wild and marine life if measures are not put in place to prevent further effluent. Since the city is positioned along the Atlantic coastline, most rivers drain into the ocean from the neighboring hillsides as they meander through industrial and residential areas. Open sewers and dumpsite have immensely caused water contaminations on these channels thereby leaving the city with no clean water for household use. Prevalence of diseases in slum areas is linked to water-borne diseases and liquors chemical contents in safe water. What is more, industrials pollutants have polluted the air causing airborne infections and smog in the city. Most of these problems are mainly attributed to government and city authority’s negligence in creating policies that would safeguard waterways and prevent dumping of effluents in open environments. Also, lack of provision of public services, such as sewer collection and water treatment facilities, are the likely cause of ocean and surface water pollution. Consequently, favelas in Rio are mostly built on hillsides and granite domes; and as such,these areas are prone to natural disasters. Lack of proper building plans and congestions are themain cause for these hillsides housingprograms; and in effect, the low-income residential areas are put at risk of natural hazards. For instance, in 2001, 70 people died when mud debris washed away their houses and properties downhill in the shanty areas (Davis, 2006). Other catastrophes have been reported in the past with numerous cases of death and injuries experienced.
To sum it up, globalization has brought tremendous growth to cities and nations across the globe with significant political, economic, and social effects being achieved, such as urbanization, industrialization, cultural exchange, economic growth, and changes in political ideologies and policies. However, there has been a flipside to these achievements, particularly in the less developed nations. Cities in the less developed countries have been adversely affected by the mushrooming of slums and informal settlements within the metropolitan areas as a result of urbanization and industrial development. Most of the slum dwellers are low-income earners who work in these industries earning minimum wages; and due to lack of enough disposable income, they are forced to live in makeshift houses. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, the favelasorslums are mostly locatedon hillsides overlooking the city. They are characterized by inadequate infrastructures, poverty, and lack of essential services, high crime rates, and environmental degradation. Thus, favelasare said to hold the biggest portion of the urban population living below the UN envisaged international living standards above 1.2 dollars a day (UNHABITAT, 2010). Poverty within the favelasis the cause of various social problems, including social exclusion, poor housing, and inadequate infrastructural development. The government and city authorities have done dismally in ensuring that the populations living in these areas are provided with essential services, such as clean water, sewer services, and improved infrastructures. Also, there is the lack of proper housing plan since the houses in the favelasare poorly constructed with poor access to roads and other transport routes. Theseareas arealso susceptible to environmental catastrophes given that there are cases of landslides and other natural disasters that have caused substantial fatalities before.