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Sustainable City – Curitiba, Brazil

Posted in Models, Visions by fedwards on June 25th, 2007

The city of Curitiba in Brazil is recognised as one of the world’s most sustainable cities. A city with a population of 1.8 million people situated in east Brazil, an area known for its poverty and violence, it has become an international model in ecological, social and economic sustainability. Below is more information about Curitiba from an article by Daniel Wermus.

The catalyst of this transformation occurred in 1970 when a team of town planners, engineers, sociologists led by Jaime Lerner came together to make ecology a part of everyday life, incorporating efficient transport, user-friendly open spaces, systematic waste pick-up, a health and educational system unparalleled in the country, active participation of citizens. And the creation of jobs linked to these goals.

Key aspects of Curitiba include:
A public transport system that is part of a global vision of home-work-living space. Bi-articulated buses stop in front of genuine transparent tube stations acting as locks. People get on and off without wasting time. Their efficiency (2 million passengers a day, 70% of transport) prevents pollution from cars.

Return trips between the centre and the outskirts are also reduced thanks to the “Street of Citizenship”. In each district, a long line of two-storey buildings, surrounded by a huge yellow tube, satisfies the majority of needs: identity cards, employment and housing applications, appointments, subsidised shops, welfare assistance, music classes, sports centres.

To ensure development of the suburbs, an “Employment line” stretching over 34 km encircles the town. Also included are “business incubators”, equipped premises where budding bosses come to train for a year in the fields of mechanics, textiles, electricity, tourism and so on.

The private sector also boasts ecological goals. Indeed, another paradox of the utopians in power is that they belong to a right-wing classed party, the Liberal Front: “If we explain things clearly to them, companies participate in the common project”, asserts Lerner. Thus buses are in private hands, remunerated per passenger/km in the specifications defined by the Town. Large companies, including multinationals such as Volvo or Renault, are attracted by this “urban quality”. All this makes for good taxpayers balancing out the majority of poor people. “Even if the economic system is one of inequality, towns can be living spaces at the service of people, and not the contrary”, explains the “Japanese” Cassio Taniguchi, Mayor until 2004.

“Waste that is not waste”. Curitiba organises a cambio verde once a week: residents exchange cardboard boxes, scrap metal, glass and rags for fruit and vegetables purchased from the local producers. The Curitiba method is no more and no less than using one solution to solve a number of problems: cleanliness, the fight against pollution and disease, healthy nutrition, civic education and sales of agricultural surplus. The operation costs 35,000 dollars a month. This is reasonable for 65 districts, 120 tonnes of fresh produce and 300 tonnes of waste recycled and resold. Waste is also exchanged for academic materials or toys for Christmas.

The town is also extremely proud to offer 55 m2 of green space per inhabitant. Parks have been created from abandoned dumps and quarries. The numerous “ethnic” groups were then charged with fitting these parks out according to their nostalgia for their past: a wooden Ukrainian church, a sombre Bavarian forest where a witch tells her tales, a Japanese haven of peace in the midst of skyscrapers, a path for strolling Italians…. The pretty artificial lakes are used to prevent flooding. The Free University of the Environment, cleverly built using old telephone poles, spills over with projects for sustainable economy and awareness campaigns. Another superb place for citizens’ education is the botanical garden: when children from a shanty town came to wreck the plantations, they were taken on as gardeners and then guides to show visitors round the garden. And in each district, the Faros do saber, libraries in the form of a lighthouse, make books, videos and internet available to the general public. And in the tower, a guardian ensures the safety of the neighbourhood.

The economic marvels of Curitiba include success with a population five times larger than Geneva with a budget that is ten times smaller. “They have managed to do what we could not: decentralise public services. They have few resources and a great deal of creativity, here it’s exactly the opposite”, comments the former chairman of the Geneva Council of State Guy-Olivier Segond.

2 Responses to “Sustainable City – Curitiba, Brazil”

  1. Pablo Duarte Says:

    August 17th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I have just graduated from Nottingham University with a Degree in Hispanic Studies and History. I did my third year abroad in Brazil volunteering in Bahia with an NGO- Baguncaco- and I have specialized in Socio-cultural themes in Brasil. I would very much like to engage myself working for a green project in Curitiba, and I would like information re. German NGO’s operating in this field which I could approach with this purpose. I speak English, Portuguese and Spanish fluently and I have dual nationaity British and Brazilean. Please let me know asap.
    Many thanks

    Pablo Duarte
    p.duarte.uk@hotmail.com

  2. Business and Environmental Leaders Declare Peace | elephant journal Says:

    September 6th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    [...] New Money For A New World. For the sake of our interview let me mention a couple of examples.  Curitiba, Brazil considered to be one of the world’s most sustainable cities has a population 5 times larger [...]