And in the first two years, 30,000 birds and 127 different types of plants have been reintroduced.
Inside an artificial archipelago on a lake just northeast of Amsterdam, wildlife is flourishing. Red clover, reeds and more than 100 other plant species grow, while thousands of birds fly overhead, feeding on the insects and small fish below.
More than 40 years after the authorities in the Netherlands, a country that takes pride in its innovative methods of water management, caused an environmental calamity on what is now a lake known as the Markermeer, an ambitious if costly solution is bringing it back to life.
The Dutch government built a dam in 1976 sectioning off the lake, one of Europe’s largest and shallowest bodies of freshwater, but the dike trapped sediment, muddied its waters and damaged its wildlife.
The future of the Markermeer became a contentious issue, and the government is employing a creative response to a self-inflicted wound: the construction of five islands on a man-made archipelago.
Nine kilometres into the vast expanse of the Markermeer, the 700 sq km lake on Amsterdam’s easterly flank, lies a new Dutch archipelago. Five sprawling artificial islands, constructed from sucked-up and refashioned fine silt, clay and shells, offer a haven for plants, birds and other wildlife.
The islands are designed to collect sediment and attract birds, fish and other wildlife to the lake. The first one was operational over the summer and opened to the public in September, and the benefits are already apparent.
“We have already seen dramatic, spectacular changes: thousands of new birds, clearer water, massive amounts of insects,” said Roel Posthoorn, an initiator of the project for the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation, during a recent tour of the archipelago.