Not far from Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temples, the towering stilts keeping wooden houses at safe levels above water have been rendered useless — the land below is dry.
It’s September, the height of rainy season, and these floating villages on the upper edge of the Tonle Sap lake should be flooded. But something has gone wrong. The eponymous river that pushes billions of gallons of water into the lake each rainy season has gone still. The lake, which expands and contracts like a beating heart twice each year for millennia has barely spilled past its dry season borders.
“We don’t see the water rising up like before,” said Kheav Cheam, a 50-year-old fisherman. “In the past, the water rose higher and spilled into the lake, so we could catch fish. But now, the water doesn’t go into the lake and the fish don’t grow bigger.”