Books: Disaster looms for Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

Once bountiful, 'world's largest inland fishery' nears ecological collapse.

In her new book “Troubling the Water: A Dying Lake and a Vanishing World in Cambodia,” journalist Abby Seiff explores the perils facing the world’s largest inland fishery — Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. The lake, which awed ancient Chinese emissaries and European explorers with its vast size and bottomless fish population, is now at risk of ecological failure.

If it collapses, so will Cambodia’s main source of protein, and possibly the livelihoods of tens of millions of people living in throughout mainland Southeast Asia. Seiff uses the power of storytelling to chronicle the communities caught in the vicious cycle of bad governance, upstream dams and climate change that is undoing the lake’s mightiness.

Home to roughly 2 million people living near the lake’s shores or on the lake in floating villages, the Tonle Sap is the beating heart of the Mekong River, one of the world’s most productive rivers for fisheries and agricultural yields. The Tonle Sap River, which connects the lake to the Mekong, is a biological superhighway and the underwater scene of the world’s largest annual migration of animals.

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