Bairro Maravilha – marvellous neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro

A programme that provides flood protection, urban infrastructure and decent housing in poorer neighbourhoods


The Bairro Maravilha programme, which translates as 'Wonderful Neighbourhood', has been implemented in more than 90 locations in Brazil's second largest city, Rio de Janeiro. It is providing urbanisation and infrastructure systems in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city, especially in the suburbs. The programme includes the asphalting of streets, the creation of safe sidewalks, and the restoration of public lighting with LEDs and the installation of a sewerage and drainage network to prevent flooding. In places where there is no space for orderly urbanization, the program builds new housing to reorder the urban space. It has already urbanised over six million square metres across the city, which has improved drainage and living conditions in all the areas concerned.


In Brazil, municipalities are legally responsible for urban management and for guaranteeing sanitation infrastructure for citizens.

In big cities like Rio de Janeiro, irregular house construction takes place in some areas despite a lack of permits, and the public administration is unable to prevent the emergence of favelas.

Once a favela is populated with hundreds of families, it is very difficult to remove them. The most sensible solution for sustainable urban development is to create adequate urban infrastructure for the areas concerned, especially in those areas that have regularly seen flooding in the past.

Due to its geography and climate, Rio de Janeiro often suffers from the risks of heavy rain and flooding, especially in summer.

Climate change is making extreme events more frequent and more severe. This causes significant material damage and risks for the population.


The Bairro Maravilha programme, which resumed in 2021, has set itself the task of rehabilitating neighbourhoods that have suffered from a lack of urban infrastructure in the past. The aim is to save these areas from decay, improve the quality of life for inhabitants and protect them from flooding caused by torrential rainfall events. It is envisaged that some 300,000 people will ultimately benefit from the improvements.


Eduardo Paes was already mayor of Rio de Janeiro from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2016. Since his re-election on 1 January 2021, the Bairro Maravilha programme has been resumed and he has promoted it vigorously.

Under the programme, the municipal departments for nature conservation, finance, infrastructure and sports, as well as agencies such as Comlurb and Rioluz, are working closely together. Roads are being paved, safe pavements constructed, and drainage channels installed and connected to the city's network. Public spaces are being redesigned with outdoor gyms for adults and the elderly, as well as sports fields and playgrounds for children. Streets and squares are being greened, avenues created and benches installed. New LED lighting will enable citizens to use the new public spaces safely, even at night.

For this urban regeneration work, up to 90% of the workers are recruited from the neighbourhoods themselves. This public investment thus not only creates local jobs and income that benefit the local economy. It also increases the quality of work–- as workers design their own neighbourhoods, and local expertise is integrated. This also makes it more likely that the public spaces will be better maintained. Local people will also be able to support workers performing maintenance work on the drainage system, as these citizens know the system.

In some cases, informal development is so poorly structured that it is impossible to implement the programme without relocating people and redeveloping neighbourhoods. In such cases, housing is built on immediately adjacent land so that families do not have to live far from their previous neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces. This process takes place in small units and several cascades. Here is an example. First of all, on a site 'A' 100 housing units are created for about 400 people. People from an immediately neighbouring area 'B' are relocated there. The area that has become vacant is then completely rehabilitated and redeveloped. People from an immediately adjacent area 'C' are then relocated to area B, so that area C can now also be fully rehabilitated and redeveloped, and so on. In this way, poorly developed neighbourhoods can be rehabilitated in a way that is accepted by citizens.


Rehabilitation measures have been or are being implemented at more than 90 locations in western and northern districts of Rio de Janeiro. Already, more than six million square metres have been rehabilitated, and drainage and living conditions have been improved in all the areas concerned. A total of around 300,000 people, who have so far lived largely without basic sanitation, will benefit. The improvements to their homes are also intended to help people achieve greater dignity.

The measures are generally welcomed and well accepted. This is also shown by various statements made by local citizens:

'I've lived here since I was born. When it rained, the water used to enter the house up to my knee. I had to build barriers to stop the water from coming in and breaking everything. Now it will be wonderful.'

'We've built a new square here. There are toys for the children, and a new gym. The whole square has been renovated. It's practically new, because it was quite run down. Now it's a recreational area for all the residents.'


The Bairro Maravilha programme is quite a success, and is transferable to other cities. Besides the direct support from the mayor, and interdepartmental cooperation in the city administration during implementation, the participation of citizens from the neighbourhoods in planning and implementing the redevelopment projects is a crucial factor enabling their sustainable management.

futher information

[pdf, 3,4 mb - Projekt der Neukonzeption von Wohnvierteln]

Video: Canal workers from the neighbourhoods talk about their work
[YouTube video: Portuguese with English subtitles]

Programa Bairro Maravilha beneficia mais de 90 localidades nas zonas Norte e Oeste da cidade

Published: 10/05/2023


Livia Figueiredo

Subsecretária de Gestão

Secretaria Municipal de Infraestrutura - SMI/SUBG



Categories: Integrated urban development Participation and urban planning Cities and climate change Urban renewal Urban heritage
Regions: Latin America Brazil Rio de Janeiro


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