The “Telefairy Tale” of Complexo do Alemão

Posted: June 16, 2011 by ellensluis in Conflict, Politics, South America
Tags: , , , , ,

On March 23 I wrote one of my first blog posts about Complexo do Alemão and the occupation. I wrote about the cable car (Teleférico) that is a project of the government’s PAC program and built as a new form of public transport within the community. Supposedly it would improve the mobility of the community residents; one couldn’t imagine the benefits it brings to the community! But this fairy tale hasn’t yet a very happy ending. Until today the cable car hasn’t been inaugurated…

The thing would be inaugurated on the 7th of April, two weeks after my — already not too positive — blogpost on the general opinion of the residents. I rescheduled my flight to Colombia to be able to join the event. A lot of important people and the press would cover this remarkable day for the Complexo do Alemão. “Finally the mototaxi’s and the vans could be substituted by the teleférico….”

The 7th of April nothing happened. The end of May nothing either; no precise date would prevent people from getting too many expectations. Sometimes we saw the cable car functioning, but that were only test drives.

Now that June has arrived, new promises are made for the “end” of this month. Interestingly, I heard my neighbours talking about a group of strangers — “probably Americans” — who came to visit and inspect the cable car, and proclaimed that the thing would place the houses and buildings below its cables at risk. Meaning that all the houses below the cable car should be removed.

That makes us wonder why a cable car, which has cost around a billion Dollars, if the houses have to be removed anyway. Why not a asphalted street? Or perhaps that wouldn’t even been necessary, as there already are streets. Asphalted, with well-functioning though informal transport (mototaxi, vans). Besides that, over the last couple of weeks more and more people tell me that they wouldn’t use the cable car anyway, as they are afraid of height. While transport is already functioning well in the community, wouldn’t it be more valuable to build a school? A university? A hospital? A library? ….

Residents are starting to realise that the cable car will not be inaugurated, yet. Will it ever? What would Sergio Cabral (the governor) decide if it they really have to remove all the houses and replace the residents (which will cost another billion, if not more)? What weighs more, the shame of “cancelling” the increadibly expensive cable car and admitting that it’s a worthless thing, or investing another billion of dollar for the removal of the houses? Hopefully Cabral can face his error of implementing a useless object and save the houses of the many residents living below the cable car. Because it would be very painful to be forced to leave your house for a cable car which you would be afraid use.

As I wrote earlier, residents — and I share their opinion — think the cable car merely as a tourist attraction. It’s a very impressive construction on the top of hill; you can see the stations even from the city centre (Complexo do Alemão is located in the North Zone, far from the centre). Moreover, it’s about the only construction on top of the hills, as most of the PAC projects are built below, near the asphalt. Apparently, as an architect told me, the focus on the lower part of the hill is justified as there’s a general consensus among urban planners that there shouldn’t be built anything above 100 meters because of ecological reasons (erosion, parts of the favela sliding down through heavy rainfall, etc.). Either this is nonsense and just serves to justify certain choices and interests (favela residents got furious when I discussed this with them: “They just want to remove the favela!”), or the cable car is build in areas of risk. In any case it’s contradictory, which is in itself is terrible as the favela isn’t a place for urban experiments, but the home of a large part of the population of Rio de Janeiro.

The cable car is a hot topic as it has radically changed the face of the favela. People are excited because it’s such a massive construction, and the inauguration will attract a lot of media attention, events and famous people to the community. However, for now and as always, the residents are left poorly informed, watching the empty cars passing above their houses. When?

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Comments
  1. […] area is being requested by the municipality to start the building of the cable car (see other blogpost), which is part of the community redevelopment plan and the project “Marvelous Port”, a […]

  2. Barelier says:

    Are you sure it is such a bad idea?
    As the place is particularly hilly, the cable car is maybe the only mean of transportation that fits…

    • Ellen says:

      Bad is not the right word. The money could have been used in a better way, to my opinion. In Complexo do Alemão transport is organised by combis (small vans) and mototaxis (motor cycle taxis) which bring residents up the hill for no more than two to three Reais. Going down by combi costs no more than one Real. It is cheap, fast and efficient, and there are connections to most other parts of the city (train and subway stations and other buses and vans to other neighbourhoods). Also, many residents make a living driving these combis and mototaxis. Why a teleférico that is outsourced to a french company hiring people that are mostly not from the community? Also, there are only five stations attending over 250.000 habitants. This means that if a resident would use the teleférico to travel inside the favela in majority of the cases the nearest station would be further away than the local a resident wants to go. Moreover, most of the people use transport to go to other parts of the city, for work or school. Unfortunately, the teleférico connects to the train but not to the subway, the latter being a faster and much more convenient form of transport to go downtown. Why a teleférico? Residents tell me that they weren’t asked if they’d want one..

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