The grandiose schemes of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu turned the Danube River Delta into a desert-like dust bowl. In the 1980s he decided to transform Europe's richest land into a breadbasket to feed Eastern Europe. Instead, his system of dykes, dams and artificial lakes wreaked massive environmental destruction. By the time of Ceausescu's demise in 1989, 40,000 ha of the Delta had been destroyed. With the disappearance of the fish, birds and rare mammals went the traditional lifestyle of the Lipovenes, ethnic Ukrainians who'd fled Russia, and who relied on the wildlife of the Delta - especially the giant sturgeon. Today, weed-filled fields still remain useless for farming, while fish collecting stations and salt mines lie disused. However, the Delta is making a remarkable recovery, thanks to an innovative World Bank Programme. Birds and plants are returning and although the sturgeon haven't recovered, the Lipovenes believe they too now have a future on the Delta.
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