Cities Along the Floodplain of the Brazilian Amazon: Characteristics and Trends

  • Sandra M. CostaEmail author
  • Eduardo S. Brondízio


The Amazon region has been categorized as an urban forest since 1980, when the number of urban inhabitants exceeded rural ones. The floodplains of the Solimões-Amazon Rivers and the estuary within and around Marajó Island, where the region’s oldest cities are located, have experienced similar trends but significantly different rates of urbanization when compared to cities of the Brazilian Amazon region as a whole. During the last decade, for instance, while other Amazonian municipalities continued to see a decline in rural population, some floodplain areas, such as those within the estuary, continued to maintain and even experience growth in their rural populations. In this chapter, we characterize cities and municipalities located along the floodplains of the Brazilian Amazon in terms of historical formation, demographic trends and dynamics, and their infrastructure. We define municipalities and respective cities along the floodplains using the classification proposed by the federal ProVárzea Program. We use a combination of demographic census data (urban, rural, and total population), and archival and historical sources (IBGE 1970–2000; CNM, 2007). Using household-level data from the 2000 demographic census, we present information on access to infrastructure and public services (electricity, public lighting, paved roads, water systems, sewage systems, and waste collection), migration (1990–1995), and other demographic changes (including data on movements for educational and employment purposes from 1995–2000). Using data from the RAIS program of the Brazilian Ministry of Labor (RAIS: Annual Report of Social Information), we examine trends in the employment and economic sectors of these cities between 1985 and 2005.

Our discussion focuses on two main issues. First, we examine historical differences in formation, distribution, and rates of urbanization. Created along rivers, floodplain cities formed an important urban network during the formative period of Brazil, playing strategic demographic, economic, and geopolitical roles which guaranteed the effective occupation of the country’s northern region. Second, we call attention to similarities between floodplain and other Amazonian cities. As in the other cities, urban conditions and infrastructure along the floodplains are poor. Limited access to infrastructure and low quality of services are widespread. Growing demands on urban services and the limited economic possibilities of the municipal governments result in a generally pessimistic trend of continuing urban problems and lack of prospects for short-term improvements in the quality of life.


Floodplain cities urbanization urban services migration rural-urban linkages 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Pesquisa e DesenvolvimentoUniversidade do Vale do Paraíba – UNIVAPSao PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyIndiana University-BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA

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