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Dutch ranger Andre Donker sighs as he looks out at the rippling gray waters of the Markermeer, one of Europe's largest freshwater lakes.But this vast 700-square-kilometer 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.Vital in a country where 26 percent 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.Three wooden bird observatories, a house for the island's guardian, 12 kilometers of footbridges and unpaved roads have also been built on the main island, which is open to the public.
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