Lake Ceauru (project)
"Lake Ceauru" (Romanian: Lacul Ceauru) is the name of a project to build an artificial lake in Romania. The work was commissioned in 1965 by the country's communist authorities and the lake was to be fed from the waters of four rivers. The project was reported as completed, but only the initial building phase was carried out. Three billion lei were allocated and spent on the lake, which was supposed to cover about 200 km², have a capacity of 150 million m³, and be located south-west of Târgu Jiu, Gorj County. Lake Ceauru still appears on maps as of 2007.
In 1965, Romania's communist authorities ordered work to begin on Lake Ceauru, conceived as a man-made lake behind a dam into which the waters of the Jiu, Tismana, Bistriţa and Jaleş Rivers would flow. The last three rivers were diverted in order to fill the lake. Projects and studies were undertaken prior to the start of work. Following expropriation decree 1037/1965 that June, the over 2,500 inhabitants of three villages (Bălăcești, Ceauru and Șomănești) were moved by autumn, and the existing houses demolished. In 1968 the project was reported as complete to Nicolae Ceauşescu, and it began to appear on maps.
Only the first phase was ever completed. A dike was built around the planned lake, and a weir constructed, through which the mingled waters of the four rivers were supposed to pass. Phase two involved the building of an actual dam, with a system for closing the weir. Two functions were designated for the Ceauru Dam: to absorb floodwaters when needed, to protect the mines in the region and to supply the downstream communities, as well as the Rovinari thermal power station, then under construction.
The failure to complete the project was exposed when a high-ranking dignitary of the Romanian Communist Party paid a visit. All the leading members of the construction team were arrested, and the director, a certain Dăncescu, was sentenced to death. Eventually, Ceaușescu commuted his sentence to 20 years' imprisonment and sent him to work on the Danube-Black Sea Canal, where he died. Local rumour suggests that the project directors used construction materials and funds for their own gain, building a number of villas with these.
Later on, a special lake was built downstream from the planned Lake Ceauru for the Rovinari power station. However, this is an imperfect solution, as during a drought, both Rovinari and Turceni (located 40 km downstream) would no longer be supplied, instead being forced to recirculate cooling water, or else halt operations.
Mayor Drăghici, who was nine in 1965, rebuilt his parents' house without authorisation in the same spot some four decades later, as did several other families. When interviewed, he recalled his parents' tears as their lifelong home was taken away, and the army watching to ensure that everyone left on time. The expellees, he noted, were given 9,000 lei, cement and lime, and for a while they slept on corncobs in cold, unfinished houses, wondering why they had been evicted.
Two 2007 interviews reflect differing opinions on the risks the unfilled site may pose. The mayor of Telești commune, Constantin Drăghici, suggested that because a forest has been allowed to grow inside, tree trunks would block the weir in case of flooding, and a deluge could break open the dike. Teodor Popescu, head of the Gorj County Water Management Service, countered that the dike and weir are maintained by his company and that the lake bottom is being cultivated by the former owners (who have received proper title to the land). He admitted that a forest does exist and could be flooded, but dismissed the notion of a flood uprooting trees, predicting that any floodwaters would subside in up to six days.
Lake Ceauru still appears on maps as of 2007. In fact, of three different maps of Gorj County, one shows the lake and calls it Ceauru, another shows it and calls it Rovinari, and the lake does not appear on a third. In interviews, officials lamented the situation but blamed the lake's continuing depiction on bureaucratic obstacles. Residents of the county, taught about the lake in school, all knew of its existence (as they were used to seeing it on a map), did not know where it was, and very few knew the reality of the situation.
- Ovidiu Ciutescu, Aura Stoenescu, "Megaescrocherie: Lacul-fantomă de la Ceauru" ("Mega-swindle: The Phantom Lake at Ceauru"), in Jurnalul Naţional, June 16, 2007 (in Romanian)