In various cities throughout the world, rivers have been reevaluated and recovered in their environmental integrity, and their potentials as social spaces have been reclaimed. New values and meanings have been attributed to rivers, and they are reflected in project attitudes to enable further experiences from the urban fluvial landscapes. At the basis of this change, we can uncover new perspectives on the relations between the cities and their landscape sites in a global scale. Initially urban and landscape studies highlighted the rivers’ significance in the formation of the landscape structures of the urban tissue. This approach has, more recently, been expanded, and contemporary studies discuss the importance of urban rivers´ landscapes from various, enriching perspectives, such as those of green corridors, public open spaces, recreation and leisure, environmental services, to quote but a few. This has generated a vast number of contemporary project discourses and practices aimed at urban river recovery. The main aim of this paper is to expand our understanding of the environmental results of discourses and practices concerning urban waters recovery, acknowledging the interrelations between environmental structures and urban occupation. It focus on how this new approach to urban rivers and its implications on local people-environment relations. For this end, it critically discusses the river and streams environmental recovery project for the city of Belfort Roxo, situated in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. This project is situated within an expanded political program named “Flooding Control and Environmental Recovery Project for the rivers Botas, Iguaçu and Sarapuí Watershed”. Belfort Roxo urban waters are totally polluted and degradated, mainly by domestic garbage and sewage, which brings periodical floodings with high social and environmental costs. Population presents a dramatic social-environmental situation: less than 30% of local people have access to tapped water, sewage, electricity or garbage collection. The theoretical and methodological basis of the study acknowledges landscape as a cultural construction, and it is based on archival research, public documents as well as field work. Initially, the paper introduces a discussion on urban projects strategy concerning environmental recovery and landscape experience, stressing people-environment relations. This is followed by a presentation of Belford Roxo social and environmental context, with a focus on its rivers and streams. The public authorities program is then critically discussed, particularly from a comparison from discourses and practices, emphasizing landscape design and developing of river banks through the creation of waterfront parks. The study reveals that the environmental practices have little to do with the discussed strategies, and points out the main causes of the problem, arguing that successful environmental preservation of urban waters have to consider public visibility as well as collective values.