Another poor wet season endangers Cambodia’s biggest lake and its people

Climate change, unsustainable and illegal fishing and the proliferation of hydropower dams on rivers that feed Tonle Sap threaten the livelihoods of over one million Cambodians.

Sarun Nong, a fisher on Koh Krabey, a small island in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake, takes another look at the fishing net in front of him. It contains only small fish, and too few of them to make ends meet.

“All together it’s maybe 3 or 4 kilos. I receive 1,000 riel [USD 0.25] per kilo, so I earned no more than 4,000 riel [USD 1] last night,” he says.

For fishers like Sarun who depend on Tonle Sap lake for their livelihoods, almost every day this rainy season has been a disappointment. Just like last year and the year before that, water levels on the lake were much lower than they should have been at the height of the rainy season this October. For them, low water levels mean fewer fish migrating to their section of the lake and more challenges in growing crops, which rely on the nutrients from flood waters.

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