Here comes the rain… again

Every single day, without fail, come 3.30pm the rain starts belting down. To the point it pretty much influences all aspects of my daily life.
Grocery shopping, travelling around, going out, working… everything revolves around the rain. But I have other worries, much bigger than thinking I might get soaked on my way home.

Torrential rain around this time of the year, the peak of the summer season, is sort of normal here in Brazil. What is not normal is the volume of water that we had in the month of January, which in São Paulo alone was over 70% above the average.

The tragedy that took place in Rio de Janeiro last month was by far the worst natural disaster that Brazil has ever seen. But many other states are suffering with the combined effects of omission from governments, which continue to ignore the need for better town planning and housing politics, and lack of engagement from the population itself to demand results.

Here is São Paulo, almost 27,000 people were left homeless or were forced to leave their homes, according to official statistics released this week. Over 100,000 people across the state are living in areas of risk.

Comparing the Brazilian response system with what was in place in Australia, where there were severe flood issues as well, I’m ashamed to think that was the best my country could do for its people; there was no system to alert, inform, evacuate and ensure the safety of the population living in risk areas, in order to avoid deaths.

Now, what I also hear, quite often, is the cynical argument that the victims brought that situation upon themselves, when in fact the government – particularly the administration of the city of São Paulo, elected by the middle classes – retains the resources that should have been used for infrastructure work to avoid floods.

Instead, our taxpayer money is diverted to subsidise private sector companies such as bus operators that think it is OK to push fares from R$2,30 to R$3 in the space of one year. Or major construction firms, whose only interest is to push the poorest as far away from the central areas as possible.

While I am not saying that whoever lives in risky areas should remain in this state of total abandonment, I also think it is about time that Brazilians become more aware of their rights and demand action from the government.

I read somewhere in the tabloid press last week that less than a quarter of all Brazilians take part in any community activity, neighbourhood associations and the like. What you see all over the place is – with some exceptions – a sense of conformity that individual actions don’t count.

The thing is, if we continue to wash our hands of the issue, we will be feeding this vicious circle of allowing corrupt politicians to control the fate of our city and the lives of people living in it. We will continue to allow things like certain NGOs getting government money and using it ‘for their own purposes’, while claiming to do the relief work that should have been done by the authorities.

What I am saying is that we need more social awareness for the masses to avoid these tragedies. If you look at what is happening in Egypt, it is obvious that ‘people power’ exists. Now when will people – like many of my friends and family – do something to demand action here in Brazil, at least at a local level?

I am ready to ask for answers, and will let you know how I get on…

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