|The Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)|
|9. Rio de Janeiro: Urban expansion and structural change|
Rapid industrialization and metropolitan growth have led to a worsening of urban pollution. Deteriorating environmental conditions have been aggravated by the lack of integrated land-use policies and urban settlement controls. Air pollution unquestionably causes serious health problems and recent studies have tried to estimate the effect that it has on the incidence of respiratory diseases. Seroa da Motta and Fernandes Mendes (1993) show that the number of deaths from respiratory diseases in São Paulo is positively related to climatic conditions.
Table 9.12 presents the available data on deaths from respiratory diseases in Brazil's largest three cities and estimates the number of deaths caused by air pollution. As expected, São Paulo's higher level of industrialization and its much larger ratio of vehicles to inhabitants causes that city to record the highest proportion of deaths through air pollution. No doubt Rio's coastal location also helps to reduce levels of air pollution.
Whether its coastal location helps reduce water pollution is another question. Certainly, the fact that most of Rio's counties are located in a horseshoe around Guanabara Bay creates distinctive environmental problems. The Bay has an area of approximately 400 square kilometres and a perimeter of 131 kilometres and receives most of the city's domestic and industrial waste. Over 300 tons of organic sewage and seven tons of domestic solid waste flow directly into the bay every day. Food-processing, chemical, and petrochemical companies and a busy sea port with 16 oil terminals together discharge 80 tons of industrial waste, 4.7 tons of oil, and 0.4 tons of heavy metals every day (Dubeux, 1994).
Not surprisingly, there has been increasing concern about water pollution since the mid-1970s. Research conducted at local universities and technical agencies soon alerted the public to the seriousness of the issue. Such concern led to the initiation of a comprehensive water pollution control project by FEEMA (State Foundation for Environmental Engineering), the official agency in charge of environmental policies for the State of Rio de Janeiro (FEEMA, 1990).
A new strategy to fight water pollution in the Rio area is about to be implemented at a total cost of nearly US$800 million. The programme's major aims are to reduce the incidence of diseases caused by water pollution, to improve water quality conditions and to resuscitate the fishing industry. Major investments are planned in the area of water supply, sanitation, solid waste control, environmental monitoring, urban resettlement, and institutional support (FEEMA, 1993; JICA, 1993).