May 24, 2013 | 05:22 PM (BD Time)
24 May, 2013 Friday
The seeds of a sustainable city
Mario Henrique Lima:
The ideal place to sow the seeds of a sustainable city would be a greenfield site where everything is clean, new and simple. But soon, over half of humanity will be living in crowded, fast-growing mega-cities. So, starting afresh is not an option: the challenge is to transform what is already here.
Addressing the complexity of human interactions and finding dynamic systems to resolve this challenge in fragile urban infrastructure settings, is the mind-set of Rio Sustainable City (RCS).
This pilot project seeks to show how two small hilltop communities in the Leme district (Chapéu Mangueira and Babilônia) - with a combined population of 6,000 people in 1,200 homes - can be integrated into urban life, without losing their distinctive identity, self-determination or legal right to their homes. We believe that showcasing urban sustainability will have an important demonstrative effect for other cities in Brazil, and beyond.
Rio de Janeiro's favelas - or informal communities -where some 2 million people live, have been part of the Rio landscape for well over a century. As far back as 1995, the Inter-American Development Bank-funded Favela:
Bairro project began working with 73 communities to integrate them into the city's fabric. In succession, came an umbrella program, Morar Carioca, run by the City Housing Department (CHD).
The two Leme favelas form part of Morar Carioca and, since 2009, have benefited from a 99-strong Police Pacification Unit (UPP). UPPs are the key to the government's largelysuccessfully strategy of ousting drug traffickers and restoring security as a first step to bringing officialdom back to hilltop areas it had long vacated. RCS working with CHD and the Rio state government to show how private enterprise, under the management of CEBDS, can actively participate in the city's transformation.
As the city cleans up for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, tensions are rising in Latin America's most expensive city, as some favela land could become high-value real estate. Already, some favelas are being transformed by new housing projects. Historically, with these kinds of projects, original residents have been forcibly relocated - in some cases to outlying regions of the city. While management of this environmentally-sensitive hilltop topography may pass into responsible hands, as the favela becomes a middle class neighbourhood, the 'people problem' would simply be shifted elsewhere, creating a new generation of social tensions.
The RCS project, therefore, can help to define sustainability in more holistic terms. It also provides a test-case for business to show its commitment, not just to planet and profit, but to people as well.
Purpose: Aligning Stakeholder Needs
In complex urban settings with a history of social exclusion, sustainable solutions are best arrived at consensually and through purposive relationships.
In terms of housing solutions for the Chapéu Mangueira and Babilônia communities, the interest in capacity-building through the learning of construction trades and volunteer retrofits to 28 homes shows this commitment to improving dwellings as opposed to simply shifting to new ones. According to Jaime Lerner, a member of the RCS Advisory Council, distinguished urbanist and former mayor of the city of Curitiba (a pace-setter in terms of sustainability and urban transport), the problem of coordination is central to sustainability. "Nobody knows how to do this on their own. Yet today, nobody knows how to help others to play their role."
For this reason, dialogue has been crucial to the RCS journey, right from the 2011 visioning process, though to the residents' assembly and feedback sessions. Initially, 21 stakeholders were interviewed, including the heads of residents' associations and the police head of the UPP, as well as policymakers, officials and NGO representatives. Then local residents were trained to conduct interviews with 50% of all community households. Then facilitators conducted regular feedback sessions with the help of residents' associations. The result is a dynamic process in which residents have an important and on-going stake, supported by local NGOs or residents' associations. This enhanced interaction also affords the business sector a greater understanding of how to interact with city, state or federal government bodies responsible for urban development. Brazil's economic growth means the public sector is now a vibrant market for the social goods and services that businesses can offer, and that local residents urgently need. So RCS is also showing how business and the public sector benefit from working together.
Finally, experience shows that a neutral facilitator is can be valuable in ensuring the system operates harmoniously and all stakeholders function well together. AXIA Sustentabilidade has shown how a third party actor can fulfil this role and help deliver project continuity. With a complex project involving up to 6,000 people living in tightly-knit communities, experience shows the risk-reduction value of clearly defining the contexts and getting intentions aligned, well before moving to the execution phase.
Focus: Cooperative Housing Retrofits
Housing is the single most important issue of concern to inhabitants of Chapéu Mangueira and Babilônia communities. Almost half of all residents consulted in our survey plan to improve the look and quality of their homes. For the most part these are long-established residents, 95% of homes are of brick and concrete, and 75% have tiled floors. In these homes, 93% have TV, 88% have refrigerators, and 38% internet connections. So these are homes in a prime condition to be improved, not replaced (as had been originally been planned by the City Housing Department). It's against this backdrop that the RCS team identified the need for a cooperative program to help residents to retrofit their own homes. While the program supports wider sustainability goals, such as greater energy efficiency in housing construction, the short-term targets focus on improved health and safety as well as better sanitation and comfort, and enhanced civic or community pride.
Residents requested workshops to raise their basic building skills and to mobilise financial credit. These needs are being met with the support of a group of RCS sponsors including Banco Bradesco, Votorantim, Dow Chemical, Philips, and Even Construction. During a 3-month period, 162 residents enrolled in these courses. In addition, Bradesco Bank made credit lines available for the purchase of building materials, while both Votorantim and Dow offered reduced rates for essential products. This involvement provided useful learning for business about how to tailor products appropriate to community need. However, to qualification criteria, up-take of the loans was poor, suggesting banks need to tailor loans more carefully to community needs and special circumstances.
Finally, all retrofit projects benefited from expert technical advice on Health & Safety from a team of architects and engineers provided by Even Construtora.
While other communities may become victims of the process of 'gentrification' or upward social mobility if existing housing stock is totally replaced and wealthier new residents move in, the retrofit project ensures original residents of the Chapéu Mangueira and Babilônia communities will continue living at its heart.
In order to face the challenges of a green economy, collaboration is key. During the last decades, firm executives have been learning they should be competitive, consequently, we now see problems with them working together. Both public and private sectors have their part of responsibility in this lack of co
Art and Culture
Focus on Chittagong
Fashion & Beauty
Food and Drink
Law and Justice
New Nation Supplement
Editor: Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Adviser Editor: A.M. Mufazzal, Printed and Published by Mainul Hosein from the New Nation Printing Press, 1.R.K Mission Road, Dhaka-1203 Phones: New Nation PABX: 7122654, 7114514, 7122655, Fax: 880-2-7122650, 9512775 email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com for advertisement, firstname.lastname@example.org