By Andrew Willis, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The new cable car, or ‘Teleférico’, which is planned for Rio’s Morro da Providência favela community, is now set to open this May according to authorities. The second of its kind in Rio, the large infrastructure project has divided local residents, with transportation improvements coupled with forced evictions.
The new cable car will consist of three stations, linking Rio’s central train station, the Morro da Providência favela and Samba City, the area where floats are made and stored ahead of carnival.
Sixteen gondolas with a capacity to transport 1,000 people per hour will shuttle along the 721-meter line, with the possibility to increase this number if demand exists. The equipment comes from German company Doppelmayr, currently responsible for the maintenance of the cable car that shuttles tourists up and down the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) hilltop.
The development will cost R$75 million (US$38 million), part of a larger R$163-million infrastructure package destined for the area. A similar cable car system opened in Rio’s Complexo do Alemão favela complex in 2011.
At 115 years old, Providência is Rio de Janeiro’s oldest favela, originally formed when veterans of the bloody Canudos war in Brazil’s northeast moved to the city. In April 2010 the community was ‘pacified’ under the Rio de Janeiro state government’s program to restore law and order to informal housing communities in the grip of drug dealers.
Many residents agree that the new cable car will help them negotiate the favela’s steep staircases that climb the Providência hillside, with locals set to gain two free tickets per day. The price for visitors has yet to be set but expected to be around R$1 per one-way trip.
At the same time however, roughly 670 local families face eviction to make way for the concrete towers that will hold the cable car wires. According to UPP Social, the arm of the pacification program aimed at social development, the entire community is made up of 4,094 residents in 1,272 homes.
New homes supplied by the government for the evicted families are frequently inadequate or far away, say observers. As a result, only a third of the families occupying houses marked for demolition have moved so far, opening up the possibility of a series of court cases in the months to come.
“Many of these families have complained they haven’t been consulted about the project or warned of upcoming evictions, which the city denies,” Flavie Halais, a freelance researcher, wrote on the OpenDemocracy website this month.
“The cable car line, residents say, was definitely not a priority for the community and will mostly serve tourists. The community has lost its only area of leisure, a centrally-located square, to construction work.”
Opponents to the project argue that private industry and tourists coming to Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games will be the main beneficiaries of the new cable car network.
Rio’s famous Maracanã football stadium – located not far from the Morro da Providência favela and currently undergoing refurbishment – is set to play host to several World Cup matches including the final, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games.