Atafona is a district in the town of São João da Barra, located northeast of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. Over the last 40 years, the sea has been eroding away at the beachside district, leaving many of the buildings abandoned and decaying at the hands of nature. In total, 14 blocks have now been swept away including a main promenade, Atlantic Avenue.
Atafona is located 3 km (1.8 miles) from the centre of São João da Barra, a small town with a population of around 35,595. It sits at the mouth of the Paraíba do Sul River, the second largest river delta in Brazil after the Amazon Delta. The Paraíba do Sul passes through the three most populous and industrial states in Brazil, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, before meeting the Atlantic Ocean.
The village of São João da Barra was founded by fisherman Lourenço do Espírito Santo in 1630. It was initially called São João Batista da Paraíba do Sul. A group of fishermen had arrived in the area 8 years early from Cabo Frio and, finding the waters abundant, decided to stay and create a settlement. São João da Barra has a rich fishing tradition to this day.
The beachside resort of Atafona was established in the 1950s on the Atlantic coast a short distance from São João da Barra. It grew quickly as a destination for holidaymakers, mainly from the neighbouring city of Campos dos Goytacazes. Holiday homes, hotels and recreational facilities were built along the coast as the resort grew. However, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the location for the growing district may not be ideal.
As early as the 1960s, signs of increased coastal erosion were becoming evident. Atafona’s position at a point where a major river meets the sea, coupled with deforestation near the estuary contributed to the erosion. Climate change played its part with a rise in sea level proving catastrophic. Sea water began to encroach upon stretches of beach close to the mouth of the river. Seafront property began being swallowed up by the sea in the 1970s and it has continued ever since. A total of 14 blocks have been lost to the Atlantic ocean in Atafona.
The ocean continues to advance inland. Every year, another 10 feet (3 metres) are lost. With it, more properties are lost and new residents are placed on the front line. Efforts to slow down the ocean’s retreat have been unsuccessful. Despite the encroaching sea water, residents are determined to stay. Tourists still flock to Atafona, particularly in the Summer months. Much of the recent development has shifted south to Chapéu do Sol and Praia Grussaí.
As time advances, so too does the ocean. It remains to be seen how much of Atafona will survive.