Exhibit Aims to Educate on Importance of Tonle Sap Lake

In ancient times, a Hindu prince named Preah Tong was chased away from his land by his fa­ther. The prince reached Kok Thlok island, which was only a moun­tain with a tree on top.

Here, he fell in love with a fe­male serpent. For a gift, her fa­ther, King of the Naga, drank the water surrounding the mountain, offering the couple the new land, and Cambodia was founded.

That is, at least according to legend retold in “The Tonle Sap Lake, a Source of Lives,” a traveling exhibit organized by Cecile and Pascal Favrel of the NGO Krousar Thmey (New Family).

The legend is an introduction to the importance of the water of the Tonle Sap Lake.

The exhibit, mostly photo­graphs and maps, is based in Siem Reap but has passed through 16 towns ov­er the last nine months. It will re­main at Wat Lanka, near In­de­pendence Mon­ument, until Aug 31 and is open Monday through Saturday.

Its main goal is to educate Cam­bodians about the wealth of the country’s re­sour­ces—the Tonle Sap lake, forests and agriculture—and how important it is to preserve these resources.

The exhibit traces Cambodia from its origins to the Fu­­nan king­dom of the 5th century and the Chenla kingdom in the 6th century to the cities of Angkor and the present day.

During the Angkor era, many reservoirs, con­sidered to be sacred sites, were built.

Today, some 3 million people—more than a quarter of Cambodia’s population—live along the lake and its flood plain. The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia—its surface usually quadruples during the rains. Villagers on the flood plain usually live in wooden stilt houses; when the lake shrinks during the dry season, they move to lighter huts near the edge of the water.

In addition to highlighting the way of life along the lake, the exhibit details how deforestation, water pollution, chemicals and pesticides have hurt the lake.

in recent years.


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