By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This week, state government officials announced that they are about to undergo a major redevelopment project in the town of Abraão, on Ilha Grande off the coast of Angra dos Reis. The work, which will be coordinated by the Câmara Metropolitana de Integração Governamental (Metropolitan Chamber of Governmental integration), is expected to mark major infrastructure improvements that will improve pathways, drainage, and sanitation.
Ilha Grande 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 tourists and Brazilians alike, boasting beautiful tropical beaches and virgin government-protected rainforest.
The town of Abraão, is Ilha Grande’s biggest town. Considered the gateway to Angra dos Reis, a daily ferry service connects the village with the cities of Mangaratiba and mainland Angra dos Reis. 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. The village of three thousand residents is only comprised of a few dirt roads, the docks and of course, the beach.
Now, with a R$28.3 million investment from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) as part of the National Program of Tourism Development (Prodetur), government officials hope to improve the infrastructure of the island, attracting more businesses and tourism to the area to generate jobs and income.
According to the Ilha Grande Council for Sustainable Development (CONSIG), last year, during peak season, Abraão received 5,378 tourists in a single day. After the improvements, the Metropolitan Chamber estimates that the village could support as much as three times as many visitors in a day, up to 15,000 people, including as many as four thousand residents.
However, officials emphasized, despite the improvements, limits on daily visitors would still have to be in place. The Chamber’s Executive Director, Vicente Loureiro said, “We want to improve service to tourists and for that, we need to limit the number of daily visitors to the island to ensure the quality of services and preserve the conservation area.”
Some of the improvements include an expansion of the waterfront area to add a gourmet space with extra seating and tables for parties and events. The village’s dirt roads will be replaced with cement and will include new street signs and lighting. Bridges will also be completely redone. Two public squares in the town will also be renovated with new wiring and lighting.
To improve water drainage, 19,000 meters of pipelines will be installed. “Currently,” Director Loureiro shared, “sewage and storm water run in the same pipe. There will be separation, to ensure better bathing conditions and sustainability.”
The infrastructure project will also include the expansion of the island’s water treatment plant and the construction of a wastewater treatment facility.
As Ilha Grande is a state-protected area, the proposed revitalization of Abraão required the approval of several environmental agencies. Now, with approvals and financing in place, state officials expect construction on the infrastructure improvements to begin this month, with the entire project lasting sixteen months.