The solution? Government officials in Rio de Janeiro insist that building a nine mile, cinder-block wall around their slums will help to prevent the Atlantic rain forest from further deforestation, and restrict the expansion of these shanty towns. Human rights groups and many residents of the slums — known as favelas — disagree, reports the Wall Street Journal. They claim the purpose of the walls is to further separate the slums from Rio's beautiful beaches and wealthier residents.
To give the government's claims some credit, the expansion of favelas has contributed to Rio De Janeiro's rain forest destruction over the years. In 2004, deforestation reached its peak when 10,588 square miles of forest were destroyed. The Atlantic rain forest, an ecosystem that once was a large and flourishing part of Brazil, has lost 93 percent of its forest cover. The walls are meant to serve as "ecobarriers," to prevent the favelas from expanding into the already at-risk, forested hillsides.
But it seems that the reason for the wall stems beyond the goal to protect the rain forest. The Journal explains:
it's all part of a wider plan by Rio officials to clean up the famously freewheeling city. Under Mr. Cabral, the state intends to hire 22,000 police officers in part to occupy favelas now under control of drug gangs.
Residents of Rio's slums claim the wall will only cage them in and restrict their ability to come and go as they please. Human rights groups are up in arms as well — referring to the proposed wall as a means of "social apartheid."
Representatives of Rochina, one of the many Rio slums in, convinced government officials to replace the high wall with ecological parks, paths, and low walls that still mark the limits of the neighborhood. Other favelas are are trying to follow suit and some government officials are reportedly considering alternatives to the wall. In the meantime, the construction of the walls continue until perhaps a different idea is agreed upon that makes the barrier clear without making residents feel trapped.