RIO DE JANEIRO — Ilha Seca is the closest island to Rio, but humans have barely touched it in the last half century, leaving it overgrown with weeds and dotted with crumbling buildings.
Now it’s newsworthy, thanks to the 2016 Olympics sailing competition, which will happen in the surrounding Guanabara Bay.
The Bay has been making headlines for its water, which is so dirty in some areas that it contains the same concentration of viruses you would expect to find in raw sewage.
During a recent visit to Rio, ecologist Sergio Ricardo took me to Ilha Seca, where he dreams of creating an eco-resort and breeding ground for fish species that are dying in the polluted water.
Below, my journey on the island.
Ilha Seca is surrounded by oil industry ships. Not all of the gargantuan bay is so polluted, and environmental activists have big hopes for its future.
It's right off the coast of Rio. But most Rio residents don't even know that the island is there, according to Ricardo.
The island is barren, with tall windswept grasses and abandoned buildings. But Ricardo is working with four local universities to turn it into an eco-paradise.
By the 1960s, it was abandoned. The island is now about to be turned over from the Brazilian federal government to the local Ministry of Fishing.
Though washed-up trash is rampant on the island, Ricardo says that the surrounding water is fairly clean.
There will be a school for local fisherman to learn the tools of trade, he hopes, along with a place for them to stay overnight.
Lots of fishermen already stay overnight on the island. The current in the bay often brings them there.
After testing the drums to make sure they're clean, Ricardo wants to fill them with water and breed fish, including crabs.
There is no construction timeline yet, but the government has discussed using pollution fines from offshore oil operations (there are many near Ilha Seca) to fund Ricardo's plan. For now, it's still a dream.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.