Like India, Brazil is a land of considerable social contrasts. On one hand, there are slum-like settlements along its lush rain-forests; on the other, there are luxury homes in Sao Paolo where rooftop helipads are a common sight.
Brazil is the largest landmass in South
America, and the fifth-largest in the world. It has a population of around 186 million, and 80% of Brazil is under urban territory. Sao Paolo itself supports a population of 10 million. The metropolitan population settled in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro amounts to 16 million people.
Again like India, Brazil is also a land of significant socio-economic contrasts, with a huge disparity in income and lifestyles. The top 10% of the population enjoys 50% of the total income of the country, and the lower 34% live below the poverty line. This has given rise to unique challenges for the country, including inadequate housing, unequal land distribution, limited social programs and funds.
20% of Brazilians are forced to opt for low-income settlements, called the favelas - crude structures made from scavenged materials and temporary shades. This form of mass housing dates back to the 20th century, when soldiers fighting the civil war got negligible assistance from the government and were forced to settle into these makeshift structures.
Like most of India’s slums, the favelas are basically clustered housing without any public services. They are extremely unhygienic, since they exist in the unattended swampy lowlands and in precarious building conditions. Another problems that favela residents face is the unavailability of a street address for every family.
With the bulk of rural population moving to the cities looking for jobs, the favelas spread into close proximity to the rich neighborhoods. The extreme poverty in these tenements has brought an increased incidence of criminal activity along the upmarket, tourism-oriented neighborhoods.
According to a research report by Brazil Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), 28.5% of the urban mass does not have proper access to public water and sewage system. Some favela clusters are as dense as 60,000 people, with little space for proper and safe roads. There have been many attempts to improve the favelas, but there is always too much to be done.
In the 1960s, many of the favelas were brought down and families were shifted to proper housing facilities. However, few wanted to be relocated too far away from the main city, as the location of the favelas made it easier for them to earn their livelihoods. This brings to mind the resistance that slum dwellers in India often display towards their resettlement and the redevelopment of their existing homes.
Among the most populous favelas in Brazil is Diadema in Sao Paolo, which was built along the city’s automotive industries. In the 1980s, there was a surge of people coming closer to the city looking for jobs as daily labourers in these companies, and this haphazard growth precluded any opportunity for planned structuring. Integrating the favelas into the main city was the only option left to the authorities.
Clearly, India is not alone when it comes to making affordable housing available to the lowest economic strata. However, when we compare our own scenario with that of Brazil, we can clearly see that home ownership is a powerful catalyst for social change in the lower income groups.
This is all the more reason for determined efforts. Making it available must be the highest priority in any country which displays the kind of socio-economic disparity we see in India, Brazil and other emerging or 'threshold' economies.
CMD – Maple Shelters
About The Author:
Sachin Agarwal is CMD of Maple Group (founded in 1997 as Goyal Constructions) whose mission is to provide genuinely affordable housing to the common man without compromising on quality and amenities. Maple Group’s ‘Aapla Ghar’ initiative has seen unprecedented success. The Group now has unique welfare housing projects, other residential projects and commercial projects in 30+ key locations in and around the city of Pune Maharashtra, India