The urbanization of Macau and its influence to the city in the mid to late 19th century 04: Zoning as an improvement to the urban development of Macau

The expansion of the roads in the mid-19th century by the Portuguese government improved the network connection of Macau. However, the development of city was never planned in a holistic and organized manner. For example, in the villages, animals were grown in the same place of where people lived. The poor hygienic situation resulted in a frequent occurrence of pandemic.1

To improve the sanitary of Macau, ‘Plan for Improving the Port and the Plan for Improvements in Macao’ was implemented in 1883 by Tomás da Rosa, Demetrio Cinatt and the Adolpho Loureiro, who were the new governor of the city, the Head Port Commander and the engineer.The policy could be summarized into three parts, which are the method to implement the policy, the new strategies to solve sanitary issue and the improvement on the harbor area (see Figure 1).


  1. Existence of the — (Decreto (Decree) of the 31st of December 1864) controlling the development of the so called framework of the Planos de Melhoramentos […] (Plans for Improvements […]). 
  2. Assertion of the priority of the plan for organising Macao’s entire harbour and town area, a total departure from the random development made since its initial establishment;
  3. Within the scope of the Plano dos Melhoramentos do Porto [de Macau] (Plan for Improving the Port [of Macao]) was fighting causes of the river silting up by guaranteeing the conditions for minimum access to vessels and the creation of shelter in the case of typhoons and bad weather;
  4. Within the scope of the Plano de Melhoramentos [da Cidade] de Macau (Plan for Improving [the Town] of Macao), adhering to the designs for construction alignments of the plan;
  5. Submitting the carrying out of the Plano de Melhoramentos ao Direito (Plan for Improvements to the Law), according to legal criteria, especially with regard to the necessary expropriations and construction regulations, whether in the Portuguese or Chinese area of town;
  6. Rigid execution of a methodical and progressive policy, of regularising the urban plan and the sanitation of the neighbourhoods, the infrastructure and equipment, all anticipated over a period of approximately fifteen years with regard to the Chinese city, whose construction from the start was short-term and shoddy; voicing of regulation difficulties in the design of the Portuguese city due to the high costs of those buildings already there;
  7. Reformulation of the process of growing rice, tree planting on the banks, the creation and control of a network for the treatment of waste with feasible methods of biotransformation, working in with agriculture, adoption of an adequate system for the collection of rubbish within the city, drying out the swamps and continuous dredging of the river, carrying out earth filling and evening out the coastline, so that silting up is reduced;
  8. Instigation of a policy of planned landscaping throughout the Territory at the height where it is described as very arid and barren, the creation of gardens and rejuvenation of existing ones, in conflict with the Chinese peoples’ reaction to this for they superstitiously believe that disturbing a tree’s roots will unsettle the peace of their dead;
  9. Exploration of new water sources, improving those already in use and the proposal of a prudent solution which would avoid the storing of water from China, specifically on Lapa Island, a fact which brings up serious problems of political strategy;
  10. Sketch of a proposal for ‘zoning’, completely innovative for its time, especially with regard to the projects concerning toxic waste and pollutants, however without this term sometimes being used in the documents analysed;
  11. Permanent cleaning of streets and public equipment;
  12. Proposal for the use of new materials and building techniques, basically in stone rather than bricks more than often made from mud, and methods to fight termites, a real plague in wooden buildings, with the aim of ensuring greater durability of buildings, increasing protection against typhoons and greater economising. Strangely enough the Chinese sector of the population were against the new measures for they regarded stone houses as wrong, however the huge supply of stone and the building costs were far less than humble buildings from bricks and pine struts;
  13. The compulsory white-washing of houses every year inside and out. Proposal for carrying out inspections of houses inside as a way of verifying conditions of hygiene;
  14. Forbidding the cohabitation of pigs and other animals with humans and the grazing of cattle in the streets;
  15. Increase of sanitary measures on the part of the health service to fight common illnesses and venereal infections and publication of regulations for prostitution and registered brothels. The creation, improvement and expansion of equipment and areas used for lepers.
Figure 1. ‘Plan for Improving the Port and the Plan for Improvements in Macao’.

In 1940s, Macau became more organized. The public administration institutions were situated in Praia Grande (南灣), Largo do Senado (議事亭前地), and Rua Central(龍嵩街), where were the center of Macau Peninsula. This highlighted the importance of the government and provided convenience for the public to visit the place. This could also allow a better monitoring of the government to the city. The residential district of the Portuguese was also in the center of Macau Peninsula, spreading from Praia Grande to Jardim da Flora (二龍喉公園). While the Chinese were living in the north and the south of the city.  Commercial districts were situated in between the residential areas, so people could visit the shops more conveniently. The commercial districts were mainly distributed in three regions, serving different communities. The first region was from Igreja de Santo António (花王堂前地) to Rua de Cinco de Outubro (十月初五日街), where was mainly occupied by the Chinese. The second one was located in the South of Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (亞美打利庇盧大馬路) and Freguesia de São Lourenço (風順堂區). The places were the finical center of Macau, where different services, including banks and major commercial firms, hotels and shopping centers were provided. This district was also the main place where the Portuguese conducted their commercial activities. The third commercial district was located between Rua da Praia do Manduco (下環街) and Rua do Almirante Sérgio (河邊新街), where handicraft workshops, pharmacies, ceramic shops, barber shops, cloth shops and restaurantswere established (see figure 4).Through offering a separated commercial center for the Chinese and the Portuguese, it could avoid conflicts between the two communities.4Industrial district was situated in the suburban area of Macau, such as the North-West of Avenida do Almirante Lacerda (罅些喇提督大馬路) and Ilha Verde (青州). Through so, it could reduce the impact of the toxic and polluted air created by the factories to the city center.5

Figure . Distribution of various function in Macau Peninsula in the end of 1970s.

Therefore, the implementation of zoning policy had improved the sanitary and organization of Macau. Along with the construction of the sewage system, public facilities and streetlights, a more comprehensive service was established.


Click here for more information of ‘Plan for Improving the Port and the Plan for Improvements in Macao’: The Battle of Sovereignty in early 1800s V: Aftermath by Chin Ching Han




[1]Afonso, J. D. Conceição. ‘A Green Revolution in Macao Nineteenth Century (The decade of the Eighties).’ In Review of Culture (English Edition). Vol. 36-37. The Instituto Cultural of Macau, 1997, 217-250.

[2] 呂澤強:《澳門早期的港口改造與填海計劃》,澳門雜誌,2015。

[3] 吳志良、金國平、湯開建:《澳門史新編──第三冊》,澳門基金會,2008年,795。

[4] 童僑慧、盛建榮:《澳門城市規劃發展歷程研究》,武漢大學學報,中國學術期刊電子雜誌社,2005年, 117。

[5] 陽平(譯):《澳門從開埠至20世紀70年代社會經濟和成見方面的發展》,文化雜誌,澳門文化司署,1998年。



Fig 1.Source from: ‘A Green Revolution in Macao Nineteenth Century (The decade of the Eighties)’ by Afonso, J. D. Conceição.

Fig 2. Illustration in《澳門從開埠至20世紀70年代社會經濟和成見方面的發展》.

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