With fish spawning grounds left dry and river levels at record lows, a two-day meeting on protection of the Tonle Sap lake was to begin today, officials said yesterday.
Phoeun Pheang, deputy chief of the fisheries affairs department of the Fisheries Administration, said at the meeting in Phnom Penh officials would discuss the extremely low water levels in the Mekong and Tonle Sap, which four million Cambodians depend on directly for their livelihoods.
“They will probably talk about the low water levels during this meeting,” he said. “We are concerned about these low water levels. We don’t know what is going on.”
The Mekong River is currently at the lowest level ever recorded for this time of year, according to the Mekong River Commission. The floodplains and flooded forests along the river and around the Tonle Sap, which are important feeding and spawning grounds for fish, have so far remained dry.
On Wednesday, government officials and fishermen on the Tonle Sap lake said the unusual hydrological situation would affect fish reproduction and migration and result in a reduced fish production this year.
Chan Yuttha, secretary-general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said a large group of officials had planned to hold a two-day meeting on the protection of the lake’s floodplains and flooded forests. These areas have come under increasing pressure from agricultural land encroachment in recent years and their protection has become a government priority in recent months.
“[Today] there will be a meeting on the measures to protect the surrounding areas of the Tonle Sap that will be attended by fisheries, environment and agriculture officials and provincial governors from eight provinces,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen was expected to attend the meeting on Thursday.
Nhim Vanda, first vice-president of the government’s National Committee for Disaster Management, said he was also concerned about the low water levels in the Mekong, as well as about the lack of rain in some parts of the country. Mr Vanda said these situations could negatively affect the upcoming fish season and rice harvest, which both start around December and January.
“I think that the fish production will be lower due to the low level of water in the Mekong,” he said, adding, “Our concern is not only fish production but also the rice production.”