Journal of Geographic Information System, 2013, 5, 337-346 Published Online August 2013 (
Spatial Analysis of Affected Areas by Extreme Hydrological
Events in Rio de Janeiro (The Host City for the 2016
Olympic Games)—Brazil
Leandro Andrei Beser de Deus1,2, Camilla Silva Motta Santos2, Patricia Gomes da Silveira2,
Marcos Aurélio Vasconcelos Freitas2, Paulo Márcio Leal Menezes2
1Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Received April 2, 2013; revised May 12, 2013; accepted June 12, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Leandro Andrei Beser de Deus et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
The most frequent types of disasters in Brazil are associated with extreme hydrological events. Adding to this situation,
in Brazil, there are the extreme sociospatial discrepancies that are historically constructed. They leave marks in space,
making specific areas, for political interest or not, more vulnerable to the different mentioned processes. To this extent,
the public management should plan actions and, also, it may act in a more holistic way adding new trends, such as, the
use of geotechnologies that are applied to environmental management in the realm of urban planning. From a case study
in the city of Rio de Janeiro, this paper aims to contribute and draw attention to such issues. It may reach its target
through pointing and spatially analyzing which areas are in the most critical situation related to the occurrence of ex-
treme hydrological events. To achieve this goal, it was proposed a methodology to inventory the occurrence of inunda-
tion/flooding for a certain period, in this case 2001-2008. Besides, the methodology could systematize data and inte-
grate them with other important issues for supporting the process of identification and analysis of the most critical areas.
Historical aspects of occupation and the most vulnerable socio-environmental aspects were raised, too, in order to vali-
date the highlighted areas. This integration was enabled concerning the support of geoprocessing techniques. The results
of this integr ation subsidized the mapping an d spatial analysis of the affected areas in the city and the criticality in rela-
tion to the extreme hydrological events. Finally, it was possible to observe that the identification of the most critical
affected areas does not mean the exhaustion of the subject. The location of these areas is directly linked to the sample
that was used as the basis for analyses. This data set only represents recorded events by the Municipal Civil Defense re-
specting the studied time frame. However, the results permit to take notes and raise relevant environmental questions
about the roots and the occurred impacts that were originated from the extreme hydrological events, which have been
observed in recent decades.
Keywords: Extreme Events; Flood Hazards; GIS; Hydric Resources; Spatial Analysis
1. Introduction
The most frequent types of disasters in Brazil are associ-
ated with extreme hydrological events. According to
Emergency Events Database [1], during the period of
1900-2006, the majority of these disasters (over than
80%) are associated with severe atmospheric instability,
which is responsible for triggering off inundation, gale,
tornadoes, hail and slid ing [2].
Adding to this situation, in Brazil, there are the ex-
treme sociospatial discrepancies that are historically con-
structed. Besides, they leave marks in space, making
specific areas, for political interest or not, more vulner-
able to the different mentioned processes. Anthropic ac-
tion seems to produce an effect on such system and it is
also focused on sp ace, producing great changes that may
bring significant impacts (often irreparably) on the own
mankind and the nature. On the other hand, the urban
space and its different dimensions often suffer the pres-
sures of the growing demand and the lack of planning
and infrastructure that are typical of developing coun-
opyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
More recently, several papers were published based on
the subject of Extreme Events, especially about Droughts
and Floods in general and/or specific way. Moreover,
they were applied in different areas and different scales
of analysis. Some of them may be mentioned: [3-9].
Nowadays, it appears that the main impacts of climatic
and extreme hydrological events are intensified by defi-
ciencies in urban planning, in regional and local scales
and, in practice, in the lack of an integrated view of
management, creating irreversible damage to downstr eam.
It should be highlighted that, in general, the regional and
local scales require approaches that focus on collective
Considerin g thi s scenar io, PIRES DO RIO & G AL V Ã O
[10] explain that the notion of management may assume
a wider connotation today. Moreover, based on this new
reality, the environmental management is presented as a
keyword for the strategies of companies and public ac-
tors. It may be understood that the environmental man-
agement “can not be grasped in its entirety outside the
processual context of the organization of space, which is
social and historical”. Through spatial analysis, the geo-
graphical approach can bring elements of reflection, par-
ticularly with regard to the scales and strategies of inter-
vention in space, to the process of decision making and
to the impositions of institutionalized actors.
To this extent, the public management should plan ac-
tions and, also, it may act in a more holistic way adding
new trends, such as, the use of geotechnologies that are
applied to environmental management in the realm of
urban planning. From a case study in the city of Rio de
Janeiro, this paper aims to contribute and draw attention
to such issues. It may reach its target through pointing
and spatially analyzing which areas are in the most criti-
cal situation related to the occurrence of extreme hydro-
logical events. Consequently, these specific areas deserve
greater attention from the government and from the plan-
ning agencies and the urba n management.
To achieve this goal, it will be proposed a methodol-
ogy to inventory the occurrence of inundation/flooding
for a certain period, in this case 2001-2008. Besides, the
methodology may systematize data and integrate them
with other important issues that can support the process
of identification and analysis of the most critical areas.
Historical aspects of occupation and the most vulnerable
socio-environmental aspects will be raised, too, in order
to validate the highlighted areas. This integration will be
enabled concerning the support of geoprocessing tech-
niques. The result of this integration will subsidize the
mapping and spatial analysis of the affected areas in the
city and the criticality in relation to the extreme hydro-
logical events. Finally, it may be considered that the
identification and analysis of these areas can act as fun-
damental tools to guide the remaining steps of the proc-
ess of environmental management within the urban con-
It should be observed that the identification of the
most critical affected areas does not mean the exhaustion
of the subject. The location of these areas is directly
linked to the sample that was used as the basis for analy-
ses. This data set only represents recorded events by the
Municipal Civil Defense respecting the studied time
frame. However, the results permit to take notes and raise
relevant environmental questions about the roots and the
occurred impacts that were originated from the extreme
hydrological events, which have been observed in recent
2. Extreme Hydrological Events and the
City of Rio de Janeiro
2.1. Hydrological Cycle and the Land-Use
The capacity of water to renew itself continuously is
property that renders it different from other natural re-
sources. Its natural behavior is characterized by the con-
cept of hydrological cycle, which can be regarded as a
close system of global scale. In other words, it is a sys-
tem that has input and output of energy, but there is con-
servation of mass and the water circulates between the
earth’s surface and the atmosphere [11]. Water is the
main element of the hydrological cycle and it can be
found in solid, liquid or gas phase, depending on the
adequate temperature conditions and pressure.
In the liquid phase, the water has direct relevance to
humans, because it is available for using in the atmos-
phere as rain, in the earth’s surface, in lakes, rivers and
oceans or in the ground in aquifers.
The main energy sources that drive the hydrological
cycle and allow its continuity are the solar energy and the
gravity. The exchange between the circulations of the
surface and atmosphere may occur in two ways (Figure
In the sense of surface-atmosphere, where the water
flow fundamentally occurs in steam form as a conse-
quence of the phenomena of evaporation and transpi-
In the sense of atmosphere-surface, where the trans-
fer of water occurs in any physical state, however,
the precipitations of rain and snow are more signifi-
Based on the difficulty in directing the dynamic of ur-
ban growth in large cities, which often ignores the natu-
ral functions of rivers and, besides, it impermeabilizes
and occupies new areas, including those subject to inun-
dation, there is frequently th e need to review both criteria
and data of projects. This need aims at human welfare
and conservation of natural elements in order to realize
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
Figure 1. Movement and changes of water in the hydro-
logical cycle. Source: [12].
interventions that are con sistent with a sustainable model
of occupation.
Fostering the comprehension of basic concepts of the
hydrological cycle, a set of ideas, suggestions and actions
should be incorporated into regional and local global
planning. Consequently, that action strengthens the ex-
pected effects of strategically designed works within the
scope of dr a inage basin [13].
2.2. Floods, Inundations and Flooding
In a general aspect, disasters are results of adverse events,
natural or provoked by man, on a vulnerable ecosystem.
Therefore, a sequence of damage may be caused, for in-
stance, in human, material, social and environmental
scenarios. Thus, the intensity of a disaster depends on the
interaction between the magnitude of the adverse event
and the vulnerability of the receiving system. Moreover,
it is quantified in terms of damages and impairment that
are characterized. In Brazil, the most common natural
disasters are inundation, droughts, erosion and landslides
(Figure 2).
Regarding floods, rain water seems to seek the paths
that are offered by the natural and/or artificial drainage
after supplying the natural retention of vegetation, satu-
rating the void of soil and filling in th e depression s of the
ground. In this way, rain water flows until the maximum
available capacity in the direction of the water body as
the final receptor. Such limits can be overcome and the
exceeded volumes may invade marginal areas depending
on both a number of physical factors and the proportions
of the rain. When these marginal areas are occupied by
man, the water comes into direct conf lict with his saving s,
improvements and activities [13].
The increase in surface flow can be caused by many
immediate and/or competitive factors. In Brazil, in the
majority of times, it is caused by intense rainfall, which
originates overflow of rivers, lakes, canals and im-
poundment areas [15].
Only in 2000, about 1.7 million of people were af-
fected by inundation, which corresponds to 1% of Bra-
zilian population. Based on a record of 89 dead and
Figure 2. Major natural disasters in Brazil between 2000
and 2007. Source: adapted from MMA [14].
16,045 homeless, there was an application of $11.9 mil-
lions of federal resources in assistance actions, beyond
the contribution of state and municipal resources [15].
Nowadays, this situation seems to be more critical.
News of floods occurrences in various parts of the
country is constantly broadcast in media. The most fre-
quent occurrences are related to large cities, such as São
Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where the floods may cause
serious problems to society [14]. This mentioned circum-
stance can be aggravated by certain factors, for instance,
the density of land occupation, the types of buildings, the
existence of water supply network and sewage [16].
It is important to emphasize that the performed human
interventions along the drainage basin represent the ma-
jor cause of damage, or they may exacerbate or reduce
the magnitude of floods. As it was previously mentioned,
the urbanization may waterproof the soils causing the
increase of the volumes of superficially runoff. For this
reason, it also does change the dynamics of these natural
environments in which their respo nse to human interven-
tions may come in the form of disasters. An urbanized
basin may present a response time 5 to 20 times smaller
than a natural basin. This reduction in response time
renders the basin more sensitive to shorter rainfall, which
are more intense [14].
Control and/or prevention measures intend to mini-
mize the inundations damage. According to TUCCI [11],
they are dealt with two different ways, though comple-
mentary ways: structural measures and nonstructural
measures. The first ones involve the traditional engi-
neering works to control the floods in order to correct
and/or prevent the problems that can arise from them.
The nonstructural measures include all kinds of measures
that can provide a living with the floods, that is, reduce
the damage and/or its consequences.
Through this research, it is possible to acknowledge
that human actions can significantly increase the risk of
inundations. On the other hand, the natural factors are
relatively stable. In addition to this point, the human in-
duced factors can be changed in time and space and they
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
may increase the frequency of floods, inundations and
flooding. Thus it may be stressed that the environmental
policies that were elaborated by the competent parts
should consider that “(...) the vulnerability to natu ral dis-
asters is linked not only to geoecological aspects of the
site (climate, relief, drainage), but, it is especially linked
to the socioe conomic status of the population situated on
this environment” [17].
2.3. History of Extreme Events in the City of
Rio de Janeiro
BRANDÃO [18] depicted the historical intense rain epi-
sodes that were considered responsible for social and
environmental impacts in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Highlighting two different features: the site of the city
and the way it is spatially organized by man, they may
influence the occurrence of recent events of larger mag-
nitude, for example, the events of 1988 and 1996,
amongst others in the city.
The massifs of Pedra Branca, Gericinó-Mendanha and,
especially, Tijuca Massif guide urban gr owth (Figure 3),
imposing a form that is characteristically d ivergen t-linear
to urban sprawl. As a consequence, the creation of barri-
ers to the movement occurs. They constitute important
disperser centers of rainwater that converge to the valley
floors and surrounding areas of lowlands where neigh-
borhoods of greater density are settled. This site does
give the city a unique natural scenery. However, it also
generates a series of problems that are related to natural
processes affected by urban growth. Therefore, it appears
that an aggravation of natural disaster occurrences is no-
ticed (op cit: 62).
Considering the year of 1988, it may be mentioned
that it was registered in the memory of Rio de Janeiro
due to one of the biggest meteorological disaster in the
his t o ry of the city . Between Februar y 19 and February 22,
Figure 3. Massifs in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
the urban area of Rio de Janeiro was punished with 384
mm of rain. Half of this volume was precipitated only at
night of 19 to 20 (Table 1), as BRANDÃO [18] cited .
The magnitude of that rain gives an idea of the
strength and torrentiality of the meteorological pheno-
menon that befell the city as a real disaster. Deforested
hillsides and with poorly consolidated underground slid
with great violence, causing destruction and death on an
overwhelming scale. (...) Disaster of such magnitude
replaced once again the issue of inappropriate use of the
environment, where the rule has been dictated by lack of
harmony between anthropic action and the laws of nature
(op cit: 89).
Another year of focu s on this issue is the year of 1996.
It was when a violent storm happened affecting the
population. It was responsible for the catastrophe that
struck the city again (Table 2). The following is a tran-
script on this event for the city.
The violent storm, that was responsible for the catas-
trophe that struck the city on February 13 of 1996,
mainly punished the South and West Zones. Besides, it
let the sad balance of 59 deaths and 1500 homeless, the
most part in the neighborhood of Jacarepaguá. The big-
gest intensity of rainfall was 2000 mm in just eight hours,
on the southern side of the massif of Tijuca and it caused
38 landslides (...) (op cit: 90).
2.4. Main Environmental Implications
According to BRANDÃO [18], the City of Rio de Ja-
neiro seems to have, in the geographical position, one of
the factors with major significance in its climatic defini-
tion. It is located at latitude of 22˚54', in the north of
Tropic of Capricorn and the trajectory of the sun pro-
duces intense insolation throughout the year. Besides,
this latitude may locate Rio de Janeiro in the transac-
tional region of conflict between the polar atmospheric
systems and intertropical systems.
The site of the city constitutes another factor that is
equally important to determine its local climatic frame-
work. The expansion of the city follo wed in the direction
of lowlands of Santa Cruz, Jacarepaguá and Fluminense,
practically involving the coastal massifs. Thus, the low-
lands and the mountainous parts compose the main
physiographic areas of the City of Rio de Janeiro that
worked effectively as natural restrictions on the occupa-
tion of the city. However, this process can contribute to
accentuate some environmental problems that are faced
by society considering the fast occupation of urban space.
In relation to this aspect, it needs to be observed that the
occupation of urban space is not always in accordance
with the supported limits by the natural environment (op
To a certain extent, Rio de Janeiro is characterized by
the complexity of its orography, with irregular hillsides
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
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Table 1. Data about the heavy rain of 1988 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Source: [18].
02/12/1988 Fr om
February 18 until
Total of February: 443 mm
127 mm/24 hours (02/19)
151 mm 48 hours (02/19 an d 02/20)
384 mm (02/19 until 22/02)
Three episodes of intense rain (days 3, 12 and 20) and 23 consecutive days of rain
contributed to trigger the catastrophe. A state of calamity was declared. 303 cases
of leptospirosis with 16 deaths and great material damage were reported.
On February 12, there was a landslide in Morro Dona Ma rta causing 6 deaths, 40
injured and 300 homeless: a screen that was used in a containment work of hillside
broke under the weight of waste and mud, which were accumulated during a week
of heavy rain. The flood destroyed about 30 shacks.
On February 19, a landslide killed 18 people that were buried by stones from the
top of Serra da Carioca. This landslide was near Hospital Santa Genoveva (clinic
for elderly people in Santa Teresa).
Table 2. Data about the heavy rain of 1996 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Source: [18].
02/13/1996 200 mm/8 hours
The rain was comparable to those of “Águas do Monte” (1811), punishing the West
and South Zones. And it caused the urban chaos. Inundations and 38 landslides of
barrier on the southern side of the massif of Tijuca have provoked the deat h of 59
people and 1500 homeless, mostly in Jacarepaguá.
near the coast. This fact may transform the spatial vari-
ability of precipitation into very large and it also not
simplify the pluviometric studies in this spatial p ortrayal.
The most vulnerable region of the city lies in th e vicinity
of Tijuca Massif due to the irregular occupation of its
hillsides and the high population density. Concerning the
worry about the occurrence of intense rain, it increases in
the summer months because it may be the period in
which convective activity is more intense over the
Southeastern Region of Brazil. One more feature may be
that the association of frontal systems to the most unsta-
ble areas of atmosphere does generate high intensity
convective centers and, sometimes, with the occurrence
of hail associated with it [19].
From the 60’s, the overwhelming meteorological ca-
tastrophe has attracted much attention of dedicated re-
searchers, as it was mentioned by BRANDÃO [18]. Rio
de Janeiro had relevant examples of these phenomena, at
least one per decade: 1966/1967, 1988 and 1996, as it has
already been evidenced by topic 2.2. CONTI [20] points
out that the disasters of such magnitude replaced the is-
sue of inappropriate use of environmental resources
again. This aspect especially focuses on the tropical ones,
where the lack of harmony between the anthropic actions
and the laws of nature has been the rule.
Some environmental implications that are followed by
intense rainfall may be cited as: flood, hillside lan dslides,
inundations and flooding of large scale in several neigh-
borhoods, collapsing houses and buildings with casual-
ties and so on and so forth. The emphasis of this paper
may be on the spatial occurrence of inundations and
flooding, even without considering the number of people
who were affected directly and/or indirectly by the
events that have been mapped.
3. Methodology
The operation of this work is composed by some phases.
The first one represents the collection of data that are
related to the affected addresses by inundations and
flooding in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro. This spe-
cific collection was performed through the Project for
Development of Techniques and Technologies of Infor-
mation and of the Efficient Usage of Water Resources to
Adaptation of the State of Rio de Janeiro at Risk of
Global Climate Changes. The presented project was pre-
pared by a group of researchers from the International
Virtual Institute of Global Changes/COPPE-UFRJ [21],
which mainly aims at identifying how the global changes
may influence human activity, suggesting anticipation
policies within governmental and business scope.
However, the primary source of these data is the Mu-
nicipal Civil Defense of Rio de Janeiro. Highlighting the
understanding of how this organ develops its policies
regarding the urban environmental management, the
definition of extreme events and how data collection is
held with residents, a meeting was done with the techni-
cians of t his organ.
After this step, a table on Microsoft Office Excel was
elaborated with the primary data that were obtained (total
records: 304 occurrences) from the Municipal Civil De-
fense and it referred to the period of 2001-2008. In this
table, there was a relation of the affected addresses by the
inundations and flooding that was reported to this organ.
In order to generate data on the Code of Dwelling (called
“CL”) and Door Number (called “NP”) (CL + NP =
CLNP) of each registered address, the application Cad-
Log was used and it was developed at the Municipal In-
stitute of Urbanism Pereira Passos (IPP-RJ/Brazil). The
referred application aims at facilitating the processing
and storage of information about public services and
spaces of the city [22].
It was necessary to get the CLNP in order to after add
this table to the program called Monta Métricas [23],
enabling the automatic generation of X and Y coordi-
nates in South America Datum and in the Universal
Transverse Mercator System (SAD 69/UTM). As the
process of the production of coordinates depends on CL
and NP, in some cases, when the address was not com-
plete or NP was not recognized by the cadastral base
used as reference, there were interpolations to establish
the location of the event. In other cases, when the CL
was not found, it was made a plotting of points through
manual process and other sources, often adjusted to hy-
For the preparation of cartograms that assisted in data
interpretation and mapping of the most affected areas
during the above period, the software ArcGis 9.2 was
used in the preparation of cartograms of density by a
method called Kernel m (kernel density estimation), ra-
dius of 2500 meters. It happened in order to analyze the
evolution in spatial and tempo ral scale of affected locali-
ties by extreme events in the city according to the ob-
tained sample. Thematic cartograms were also prepared
in the following way: intersection of the affected ad-
dresses by hydrography, relief, satellite image and or-
thophotos of the bor ough. Moreover, subnormal agglom-
erations (slums and irregular settlements) and, finally,
land use may be included. They were prepared in the
sense that the analysis of the most critical areas of the
city was enriched with other elements that could con trib-
ute to explain or not (construction/deconstruction) the
found results and compose further analyses on this issue.
Thus the use of these applications has enabled that the
obtained primary data were refined and, later, manipu-
lated following specific objectives of the research through
techniques of geoprocessing.
4. Spatial Analysis of Affected Areas
The history of man and nature is marked by periods of
harmony and conflict, due to the strength that man
transmits to the environment with the interest in obtain-
ing necessary resources for his survival. However, the
human need does not always comply with the supported
limits by the nature. Conseq uently, in several episodes, it
results impacts to the environment, which often reflect on
human life causing damage to society and to its property.
It should be noted that the obtained data are from the
Municipal Civil Defense of Rio de Janeiro, which has the
main purpose of acting in prevention and preparation of
vulnerable communities in relation to environmental risk s.
Concerning the environmental risks, they “result from
the association between natural hazards and risks arising
from natural processes exacerbated by human activity
and occupation of terr itory” [16].
It will be analyzed what should be the most critical
areas considering the occurrence of inundations and
flooding according to sample of available data. Moreover,
the history of areas occupation will also be approached,
because for a comprehensive study on the environmental
issue, it is relevant to understand this subject th rough the
study of territory occupation by man.
From the analysis and interpretation of results based
on techniques of geoprocessing, it is possible to id entify,
through developed Density Cartograms, three areas that
had higher rates of inundation and flooding events in the
city during the period from 2001 to 2008. These identi-
fied areas are the following: Administrative Region of
Madureira and Meier and the district of Sepetiba (Figure
4). The last one presents a great feature due to the fact
that it has been attracting more public and private in-
vestments, which will influence the organization of the
population and its relationship with the environment
within a certain time.
4.1. Spatial Analysis of the District of Sepetiba
According to the fact of being suitable for navigation
because of the proximity to the coast, the site of the dis-
trict of Sepetiba propitiated its water to be used to dis-
pose Brazilwood to European ports. It occurred in the
beginning of Portuguese colonization. Later, in the early
nineteenth century, the neighborhood started to receive
the royal family for their summer stay and this circum-
stance contributed to the inauguration of a train station to
transport passengers and goods in 1884.
Considering its initial occupancy, it is related to some
families of fishermen and ranchers who lived in the
farms. However, as the city was growing, there was the
need to subdivide these farms with the purpose of, espe-
cially, a poor population could reside in more remote
areas or that those areas were filled by individuals from
other places. These people initially settled themselves in
more distant neighborhoods or in boroughs of Baixada
Fluminense [25], due to the low cost of living and the
offer of transport, especially the railway.
Nowadays, the district of Sepetiba presents a popula-
tion of 35,392 inhabitants and its total urbanized area is
94.88% [26]. Sepetiba is characterized by its poor net-
Figure 4. Distribution of inundations and flooding in the
city of Rio de Janeiro during the period of 2001-2008.
Source: presentation about extreme events in the city of Rio
de Janeiro (Dec/2008) [24].
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
work of infrastructure (sanitation, transport, electricity,
health etc.). To illustrate the mentioned picture, the data
on the type of sewage, to which the households have ac-
cess, referred to year 2000 are the following: in Sepetiba
26.78% has access to sanitation services, while 99.45%
and 87.46% in Méier and Madureira respectively (op cit).
This fact may explain a longstanding practice of the
governors of the city, which give more attention followed
by more financial and social resources to demands for the
population that occupies the prime areas of the city [25].
From the late nineteenth century, these mentioned areas
were the ones near the sea that had potential for tourism
and real estate, such as, neighborhoods of the Sou th Zon e
of the city. Notwithstanding an ancient practice, it re-
mains visible to citizens in their wandering through the
city neighborhoods.
However, the government is the biggest responsible
for providing these basic resources to the population. In
Sepetiba, there is a predo minance of a low income popu-
lation that settled in the region, especially, searching for
job. It is based on the new opportunities g enerated by the
economic dynamism that this space has been showing
Recently, the drainage basin from Sepetiba Bay has
suffered enough with the anthropic pressure considering
the urban spaces that has been growing around it and
through its economic development. This economic de-
velopment is encouraged by certain organs of the differ-
ent spheres of power to attract enterprise, for example,
Porto de Itaguaí (Port of Itaguaí), Arco Metropolitano,
Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (National Steel Com-
pany), amongst others [27].
In this region, most installed enterprises directly in-
fluenced the sociospatial organization of the population,
because some locations of Sepetiba begin to offer a
greater number of goods and services. Consequently,
these places became valuable spaces for the housing
market, which automatically starts to be speculated and,
also, contribute to the fact that low income population
has been at risk areas. In this way, living under threat of
events that can cause serious damage to society, for in-
stance, inundations, landslides, flood, etc.
It is precisely the low income population the most
vulnerable to be affected by these events. It may happen
because of its lack of knowledge, the reduced purchasing
power to carry out preventive measures and also due to
the spaces that are generally occupied by this class-sub-
ject to landslides, inundations, flooding and so on.
Spaces that are often occupied illegally and unsustain-
ably, which tend to aggravate the effects from the envi-
ronmental risks of extreme events, in this case, inunda-
tions and flooding.
The above conditions could be found in the neighbor-
hood of Sepetiba, which had a greater number of occur-
rences during the period of study. Besides, observing the
figures below (Figures 5 and 6), in this neighborhood the
density of inundations and flooding points is usually lo-
cated near rivers that cross the region. This situatio n may
explain the occupation in spaces near the hydrography,
which according to the law of the municipality, it is not
allowed because these are spaces that have environ-
mental constraints on human occupation. This fact is a
consequence of the fragile physical conditions of these
The pro-active policies (preparation and prevention)
should be strengthened by the Civil Defense and the
government. The partnership with the local community
should be included in this policy, then: “The spotlight
turns to generate technical and scien tific instruments that
may be capable of producing necessary knowledge for
the adoption of a territorial planning that seems to be
socially fair, ecologically sustainable and economically
viable.” [18]. As a result, the intensity of those events,
Figure 5. Points of inundations and flooding in the period of
2001-2008 in Sepetiba. Source: presentation about extreme
events in the city of Rio de Janeiro (Dec/2008) [24].
Figure 6. Zoom in the neighborhood of Sepetiba ide ntifying
certain points of inundation and flooding in the period of
2001-2008. Source: presentation about extreme events in
the city of Rio de Janeiro (Dec/2008) [24].
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
that cause damage to humans and the environment, might
be reduce d .
4.2. Spatial Analysis of the Administrative
Regions of Méier and Madureira
Regarding the administrative regions of Madureira and
Méier, they present an occupation that reassembles at the
late nineteenth century. It should be taken into con sidera-
tion how the rail of this region largely facilitated the d is-
cussed aspect. The inauguration of Méier and Madureira
rail stations respectively happened in 1889 and 1890. The
expansion of the railway facilitated and intensified the
process of expansion from city to suburbs, causing the
fact that a population of low purchasing power began to
occupy this region [25]. Besides, the development of
these areas, in economic and social terms, started to oc-
cur and it w as suppo rted b y private and public enterprise,
such as, Mercadão de Madureira, which was inau gurated
in 1914. Nowadays, it is one of the biggest trade centers
of the city.
Spotlighting the increasing residen tial and commercial
occupation in the districts of Méier and Madureira, the
government was gradually preparing an infrastructure
that met the needs of the population. It is also relevant to
mention that the population may act directly in the proc-
ess of structuring the urban space according to its inter-
ests. There is real need of population’s participation in
the environmental management policies and preventive
measures against inundations and flooding in order to
minimize the environmental impacts and generate the
welfare of society.
The Civil Defense structures were presented as entities
capable of detecting these unsafe conditions, proposing
participative solutions, not only from an institutional
perspective in the cities, but also involving the business
community, communities and NGO in favor of environ-
mental and urban planning and global security of the
population. However, this situation may only be possible
from political will and awareness of local governments
In the mid-twentieth century, Méier and Madureira
started to be considered as functional sub-centers in the
municipal scene due to the economic development that
they had presented, especially, in services and trade sec-
tor. It was different from the scenario of Sepetiba that
appears as a promising center for industry installations,
although the resources and rev enues tax of these projects
slowly reflect the daily life of its people.
According to the analysis of points of inundation and
flooding, the Administrative Region of Méier showed an
expressiveness of points in the year 2004 (Figure 7)
through a temporal analysis of cartograms of density
while 2007 was the most significant year for the Admin-
istrative Region of Madureira (Figure 8).
Figure 7. Zoom in the administrative region of Méier-fea-
tured in 2004. Source: presentation about extreme events in
the city of Rio de Janeiro (Dec/2008) [24].
Figure 8. Zoom in the administrative region of Madureira
with certain points of inundation and flooding-featured in
2007. Source: presentation about extreme events in the city
of Rio de Janeiro (Dec/2008) [24].
It seems to be possible to infer some factors that in-
fluence the occurrence of these events in both areas, for
example, the high urbanization rate (data from 2001) that
these two administrative regions present. The Adminis-
trative Region of Madureira presents 97.40% of urban-
ized area and/or altered area. On the other side, the Ad-
ministrative Region of Méier has 97.13% [26]. This in-
tense land use by society has contributed to soil sealing.
Furthermore, it can be extrapolated to the entire area of
basin and it can cause deficiency in water drainage. This
fact can also be related to a drainage system of urban
water that may be outdated or defective throughout the
Moreover, “Amongst the many factors that imply the
mismanagement of a situation close to the urban envi-
ronmental chaos, the lack of understanding between the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JGIS
involved actors and the institutional disorganization in
the municipalities is prominent” [27].
In order to consist of an effective action, it becomes
essential to know the mechanisms of conformation of
reality and to have a multidisciplinary focus on its con-
solidation. The effectiveness of environmental manage-
ment, which is ultimately comprehended as a grounded
practice in reality, requires an understanding of the dy-
namic of processes that structurally configures this real-
ity. The environmental management presupposes the dif-
ferentiation of strategies and interests of modeling agents
of geographical space. Therefore, the environmental ma-
nagement may be a political process [10].
Lastly, it will be used a passage that summarizes wh at
has been approached about this issue in relation to the
highlighted areas in this study. Furthermore, how the
politics of environmental management and land occupa-
tion in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro are directly
related to the results of spatial analysis.
The historical process of occupation of metropolitan
urban space in Rio de Janeiro created serious problems
that were spatially differentiated. As a result, there is
currently a critical environmental framework in which
issues related to high demographic density, slums, sani-
tation, movement of vehicles, pollution, floods and in-
undations occupy a position of prominence and originate
emergency solutions. These problems overlap in certain
areas of the city, resulting in high risks for the population
that resides in them. The most significant examples of
critical environmental p roblems, which are consequences
of spatial segreg ation in the metrop olis of Rio de Jan eiro,
are found in marginal areas occupied by low-income
population. And in these areas, the almost complete lack
of basic infrastructure results in high degree of environ-
mental vulnerability [18].
5. Conclusions
This work aimed to develop a preliminary analysis of
inundation s and flooding occurrences in the municipality
of Rio de Janeiro during the period of 2001-2008. To
realize it, techniques of geoprocessing were used to en-
rich the process in order to, in the future, be possible to
suggest the monitoring of the most affected areas, which
were identified in this wo rk, to the competent organs.
It should be noted that the occurrences of inundations
and flooding refer only to those registered by the Mu-
nicipal Civil Defense from 2001 to 2008. Then, the re-
sults refer to the presented scenario. Therefore, other
possible critical areas can also be identified from another
sample set using a different method of collection and,
perhaps, a wider range of time frame. Thus, there is em-
phasis on absence and lack of systematization of data and
information about the theme that represented the greatest
obstacles to a more detailed spatial analysis with respect
to extreme hydrological events. It may be also high-
lighted that it is essential to integrate the geotechnologies
with such studies to support, in a more effective way,
planning guidance and urban sustainable management in
areas that are already occupied or in expansion.
In conclusions of a report about environmental vul-
nerability that was based on the context of the State of
Rio de Janeiro, FREITAS et al. [28] mentions that, in
general way, it can be said that the consequences of ex-
treme hydrological events are directly related to envi-
ronmental impacts caused by the use and occupation of
urban land. Furthermore, the most vulnerable places are
those that have deficit of infrastructure, mainly when
they are associated with poor management of water re-
sources. Accomplishing the distribution of space of risk
and the development of the systems of supply and sewer,
the act of planning the areas of occupation in the cities
according to the plans for drainage basins management
would have much lower costs and losses at a time of ex-
treme climate events. In fact, preventive measures of
adaptation against these risks may actually provide a
significant reduction of economic, environmental, mate-
rial and human damage.
Finally, it may be mentioned that the National Policy
of Civil Defense recommends that there is an important
interaction amongst the following topics: sustainable
development, disaster reduction, environmental protec-
tion and social welfare. It is imperative that the planning
process of national development considers the prevention
of disasters in a clear and permanent manner.
In the scope of the discussed issues, as a suggestion for
future work, it is possible to spotlight that data about
weather stations is being analyzed in the municipality of
Rio de Janeiro in order to enrich, enhance and validate
the obtained results in this research. Another important
item to be highlighted concerns the degrees of uncer-
tainty and validation of the areas identified as a stage to
be implemented in future activities of this study.
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