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Rio+20: megacities strive to survive – and thrive (+video)

As Brazil prepares to host the Rio+20 conference this month, its own rapid urbanization highlights the health and infrastructure challenges of promoting sustainable cities worldwide.

To promote next June's Rio+20 conference and the need for sustainable development, the United Nations launched a campaign engaging people in a global conversation on the kind of communities they would like to live in twenty years from now.
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In Rio de Janeiro, a gray-green river running thick with waste is flanked by the squatter settlement of Mandela on one side and the ornate turrets of the national public health ministry on the other. Kids paddle on hoods of cars and swim in the murky water, which the state environmental service condemned as having "pathological contamination" from sewage.

Local pastor Antônio Carlos Costa says there is nowhere else for kids to play, though he pleads with them not to swim in "Copacalama," as the kids mockingly call their muddy Copacabana. "God protect these young people," he says.

As Brazil prepares to host the Rio+20 sustainability conference this month – the third United Nations-sponsored global conference on sustainability in 20 years – its own rapid urbanization highlights the health and infrastructure challenges of promoting sustainable cities worldwide. The population of Brazilians living in cities nearly doubled between 1960 and 2010, with 84 percent living in cities, according to the most recent census.

Representatives from more than 180 nations will gather here to discuss and, they hope, target solutions for the pressing problems of a burgeoning number of megacities, from ad hoc sanitation to unemployment.

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