An Intermediate City in Brazil: Between Inequalities and Growth
According to international statistics, nearly 50% of the world's urban population now lives in cities of less than 500,000 inhabitants. These small and medium-sized cities act as intermediaries between rural regions, the local economy and more extensive urban networks and have three spheres of influence: regional, national and international. In many of these "intermediate cities", the main problem is a lack of financial and human resources for them in a comprehensive way in order to tackle the
... emographic and spatial sprawl of these urban settlements and avoid an increase in social segregation and territorial fragmentation. The example of Montes Claros in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, illustrates how a city of nearly 400,000 inhabitants at the centre of an economically prosperous region is tackling these issues through its current process of urban planning by striving to take into account its historical, social and spatial context. Like most Brazilian and Latin American cities, Montes Claros -which serves as a transit hub at the State and national levels -is a rapidly growing intermediary city whose economic growth over the past two decades has been exponential. However, this growth, which is mainly commercial and industrial, has not resulted in a more inclusive distribution of the urban population. When one considers the growth that has resulted from rural migration and new urban residents, the urban area of Montes Claros remains territorially fragmented, with neighbourhoods that are more or less equipped with various public facilities (hospitals, schools, etc.) and served by public transport depending on the socio-economic status of their inhabitants. The current planning process is raising many issues. Among them, three crucial elements which must be rethought in order to develop an adapted planning approach and appropriate planning tools that can guide decision makers in shaping the city and region's future. The first is a medium and long-term vision for Montes Claros, its hinterland and northern Minas Gerais; the second is the current (biased) perception of Montes Claros wherein only the dense downtown areas are considered and suburban areas remain disconnected from the rest of the city (and hence poorly integrated); the last is a participatory urban planning process that involves all stakeholders and the entire population, from the diagnostic phase up through the definition of priorities in terms of urban policies, strategies and investments.