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Rio building collapse: where is the oversight?

In the past year Rio has seen exploding manhole covers and numerous transit accidents. It might be time to rethink the city's antiquated building codes, says guest blogger Julia Michaels.

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Who will pay for the damages and suffering in this week’s tragic case? So far, the State Social Aid Secretariat has said it will pay burial costs for the dead, and the state council of engineers mentioned that the engineer in charge of the unreported work could lose his license. Insurance hasn’t been mentioned – and neither the owner’s name nor that of the engineer in charge of the work has been made public.

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Up until last month when bus corridors were instituted in Rio de Janeiro, it was a city where one could bring a municipal bus to a stop anywhere at all, simply by raising a finger. More of a village, than a city.

But the village is in fact a city of 12 million people, boasting plans for grandeur with hammers, drills, and bulldozers. As the building progresses, as investment flows in, and tourists arrive, demand for city services and oversight is mushrooming. But not being met. When you Google the words inspeção de obras Rio de Janeiro, or construction inspection Rio de Janeiro, this is what you see at the top of the page.

Click here to see the same Google results in English.

In the last year Rio has seen exploding manhole covers, trolley, ferry, and bus accidents, metro stoppages, and electrical blackouts, among other catastrophes.

Meanwhile, the city council plays almost no role in drafting public policy, and Mayor Eduardo Paes has focused on a constant “shock of order” campaign which started in 2009 to combat disorder in public spaces. This has included expanding and training the municipal guard, and prioritizing a crackdown on illegal parking and street vendors.

But it might just be time to create a task force to rethink the city’s antiquated building codes and zoning regulations– and the way they are enforced. Otherwise, the grandeur could well remain in the realm of illusion.

--- Julia Michaels, a long-time resident of Brazil, writes the blog Rio Real, which she describes as a constructive and critical view of Rio de Janeiro’s ongoing transformation.

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The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Latin America bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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