• But this vast 700-square-km expanse of water, which regulates the level of water in the rest of the Netherlands, had become until recently nothing more than a cloudy mass devoid of aquatic life.
  • Now the hope is that a new artificial archipelago of five islands will bring nature back to the area via a typically ambitious engineering project for a low-lying country that has battled the sea for centuries.
  • It is “one of the largest rewilding operations in Europe.
  • The lake was once part of the Zuiderzee, an engineering wonder of the world completed in 1932, which closed off a huge expanse of water to keep out the North Sea and combat flooding.
  • Vital in a country where 26% of the land is below sea level, the scheme created an inland lake and polders, land reclaimed from the sea, but at a cost to the environment.
  • In the water there is an “explosion” of plankton that “guarantees a large amount of food for the birds.
  • Greylag goose, common tern, several species of waders such as the great egret and the night heron have also returned, testifying to the islands’ success.