By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Construction has started on the development works to improve drainage and sanitation among other services, in Vila do Abraão (Abraão Village) on Ilha Grande, off the coast of Angra dos Reis. The Rio de Janeiro state government has secured over R$28 million for the infrastructure works, to modernize one of Brazil’s most adored and rustic island destinations.
Government news sources report that the urbanization works in Vila do Abraão include drainage, paving, landscaping and street furniture, as well as implementation of structural reform of five bridges and implementation of tourist signs.
“Vila do Abraão is the gateway for tourism on Ilha Grande. With the works, we will be providing more dignified conditions to residents and offering tourists a better host,” said Vicente Loureiro, the executive coordinator of Prodetur (National Program for Tourism Development).
Expected to end in July next year, the works also include the expansion of the water supply system to increase capacity to 40 liters per second, and the sewage system through the construction of a sewage treatment stations with the capacity to treat about 24 liters per second, as well as the implementation of public lighting network.
Ilha Grande (Big Island) is the largest of the coastal islands of Angra dos Reis. Once a destination for pirates, lepers, and prisoners, today, the island is one of the country’s most popular destinations for foreign tourists and Brazilians alike, boasting beautiful tropical beaches and virgin government-protected rainforest.
Arguably one of the most popular islands on the Brazilian coastline, steps have been taken to preserve its natural beauty and protect the wildlife by registering it as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2011. One of the proposals was to limit the number of visitors to its shores, a procedure which has long been in place on two of its sister islands, Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas.
Expatriate living in Rio, and environmentalist, Alfonso Stefanini is concerned about the increase in infrastructure on Ilha Grande, as it may bring too many people. “Originally they only had a ferry going there once or twice per day, now you have speedboats taking people there every 20 minutes.”
Stefanini adds, “There is an overload of people because of different forms of predatory tourism and should have limited passes like Fernando de Noronha, otherwise they are going to destroy even more of the marine ecosystem.”
Tourism operator in Rio de Janeiro, Facu Espinosa of Rio Hunter, shares “For me, the charm of [Ilha Grande] is all about its tranquility and authenticity. Although growth is an integral part to any community, there’s a time and a place for it. Preservation is just as important, if not more than growth. This project could change Ilha Grande for the better, and lets all hope it does.”
Vila do Abraão, is Ilha Grande’s only town, and the the gateway to and from the main connecting port in Angra dos Reis. A daily ferry service connects the village with Angra dos Reis, but smaller transportation services also go to the coastal towns of Jacareí and Mangaratiba.
Despite the numerous pousadas, restaurants and bars, the beachfront town still retains the feel of a sleepy fishing village as except for a garbage truck, fire engine, and police vehicle, cars are nowhere to be seen.