Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brazil Mudslides Deforestation Building On Flood Zones

In 1816 the Swiss representative of the Canton Fribourg established a colony in an area of Brazil that greatly resembled their geographic mountain homeland, Nova Friburgo. Around one hundred Swiss families inhabited the area and by 1820 the population had grown to 200. Today the population of flood damaged Friburgo is 178,102 people.

Teresópolis, Brazil was once the home for a group of indigenous people. By 1855 the village had a population of 2,000 people. Today the flood prone mountainous area has a population of 150,921 people inhabiting vulnerable land comprising of thin layers of earth on solid rock.

Increasing urbanisation of the area has added to the high rate of deforestation across known 'flood zones'. In heavy rains the water flows fast and unrestricted due to the loss of trees and natural vegetation. By the time the flood waters torrent down the vertical cliffs they carry with them what is left of the fragile topsoil.

You can see with your own eyes the ongoing destruction of forest and natural vegetation if you go to Google Maps, Brazil (satellite): Teresópolis or Nova Friburgo. You have to take time and really look at the surrounding urban spread, deforestation, habitat destruction and the extending roads obviously planning future building on unstable land prone to future mudslides and flooding.

Unrestricted Building In Flood Areas
"The death toll has been aggravated by the failure of municipal governments in the region to control where residents – particularly poorer ones – build their homes. Many neighbourhoods affected were built without planning permission in areas that authorities labelled zones at risk from flooding and mudslides. Experts have warned for years that the deforestation that comes with creeping informal urbanisation is weakening hillsides in areas prone to heavy rains, raising the risk of mudslides. Rio’s governor Sérgio Cabral said a failure to implement planning regulations in areas at risk from flooding meant the disaster was a chronicle of a tragedy foretold. " The Irish Times

The Economist have a very good article on the Brazil floods:
After The Flood - Why did so many die?
"For two centuries the mountains behind Rio de Janeiro have been the perfect Brazilian getaway. Pedro II, a 19th-century emperor, would decamp there with his court to escape Rio’s sweltering summer heat. More recently Rio’s rich have done the same, carving weekend palaces from the sheer granite walls and dense forests shouldering towns with noble names like Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo. Settled by German and Swiss immigrants, these once-quaint villages of gingerbread architecture have turned into bustling cities. Now they are a shambles."

Deforestation In Brazil Worsen Flooding
"It is important to better understand the risks to people and infrastructure in watershed areas, especially where ecosystems are degraded, contributing to the powerful effect of flooding." ClimateVoices