Rio moves to wall off its slums

Several new walls are being built around the slums in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Eleven kilometres of Concrete walls 3.5 metres  high are being built in about 40 slums to protect native forests.

Authorities say they want to stop “favelas” from expanding into preserved areas in order to protect wildlife. But human rights groups say the walls are designed to segregate the city’s poor from its wealthy residents. The project is due by the end of the year, at a cost of 17 million dollars.

Because of the environment-related argment, the news has created very little discussion in the Brazilian media.

The newspaper O Globo published an extensive article this week with no questioning of what consequences these walls can bring. It showed maps of seceral slums before and after the walls are built. The depiction is shocking: at least in 6 cases – Chapéu Mangueira, Parque da Cidade, Ladeira dos Tabajaras, Vidigal and Cantagalo – the wall-off actually means the favelas will be stopped from expanding at all. 

Now with the continuous migration of poor people coming from the countryside to try their luck in the big city, the natural tendency of any "favela" is to grow. Some have already started to grow upwards, with illegal and unsafe improvised flats being built on top of others. In other cases, the growing population is forced to move to neighbouring cities and the outskirts of Rio, accelerating the gentrification process.

This move will naturally bring social consequences that are not being adequately discussed. There are still many questions to be asked.