Environment officials warned at a conference Tuesday that overfishing and deforestation threaten to destroy the unique ecosystem of the Tonle Sap lake.
“The great lake’s [environment] will become unsustainable as long as people are engaged in overfishing,” said Khy Tainglim, vice chairman of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, in a speech at the conference.
The committee, in conjunction with the Mekong River Commission, is holding a three-day seminar on the topic of Southeast Asia’s largest lake. The conference at the Juliana Hotel, sponsored by the UN Development Program, ends this evening.
Officials at the conference warned that the increase in floating villages on the lake is putting pressure on the ecosystem. A new report by the Mekong River Commission released at the seminar also said that waste from the fishing industry discarded in the lake causes pollution and algae blooms.
In addition, Minister of Environment Mok Mareth said deforestation surrounding the lake is causing heavy sedimentation that disrupts the ecosystem.
The chief causes of the sedimentation are villagers collecting brush for firewood along the banks of the river, and farming on the flood plain when the lake is low, according to the Mekong River Commission report.
The Tonle Sap is unique because it expands and decreases in size during the wet and dry seasons. It is home to numerous species of birds who roost there in the dry season, and is the spawning ground of 215 of the approximately 400 species of fish found in the Mekong River system, according to a Unesco report.