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Business

Germany's Great Lakes Take Shape

A former coal-mining region in eastern Germany is hoping to escape a depressing future by being reborn as a vacation paradise thanks to plans to flood the area, creating a whole region of new lakes.

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From lunar to lake landscape

The people of the Lausitz, a region southeast of Berlin, were promised a flourishing future -- as were all East Germans -- by the politicians who oversaw German reunification. But so far, the promise has remained just that.

The Laustiz knew prosperity in the past, when the valuable brown coal buried beneath its sands was still a plentiful, valued commodity. The mining industry took all it could, leaving much of the region resembling a lunar landscape of gaping, barren craters.

Klettwitz Bg 350 Motiv 1 Abraumbagger Lausitz Foto: LMBV ehemaliger Braunkohletagebau

Now, the coal is gone, and the people have left. Industry stubbornly stayed away, that is, until the Lausitz Mining Administration Company (LMBV), together with a conglomeration of investors, came up with a plan to bring the region back to life.

Perhaps they were inspired by the ground water. For years, it was mercilessly pumped out of the coalminers' way, but with the pumps stilled, it started to trickle back.

Now, the LMBV is literally bringing the water back in floods, turning the area into Europe's biggest artificial lake landscape, complete with yacht harbors, floating hotels, houseboats, a golf resort, speedboat recreation center and equestrian center.

neu entstandenen Geierswalder See, zwischen Senftenberg und Hoyerswerda

Tourists are already enjoying the newly formed Geierswalder Lake

Over 20 lakes will result, with a canal to link up a chain of nine lakes -- some of which are already taking shape -- over 7,000 hectares.

Job creation

"Here you have space to moor boats, Germany's only continual seaplane landing area is here, and where else do you have a shipping canal linking up the lakes?" Ulrich Stephan of the association overseeing the project told the Bild newspaper.

"The first investors are already committed. Over 800 jobs will be created here," Stephan added.

The developers are hoping to attract a broad spectrum of visitors, including Germany's growing population segment of "young at heart" seniors interested in having an active holiday. The wide array of water sports on offer is intended to draw a younger crowd .

The new lake region is scheduled to be fully completed by 2018, though that date has already been put in question because of the sheer quantity of water needed to flood an area that, over the years of coal-mining, became one of Germany's driest. Ground water is not enough to fill enormous craters left in the landscape -- river water is also needed. The flooding plan is already estimated to be two years behind schedule.

gefluteter früherer Tagebau Greifenhain im südlichen Teil des Landes Brandenburg.

Flooding with ground water alone would make the lakes too acidic -- experts are working on a solution.

Another problem -- the water filling up the old mining pits is acidic, confronting scientists working on the project with the problem of how to neutralize it so that fish and vegetation can have a fighting chance.

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