Cambodia’s Tonle Sap shows what’s at stake in the Mekong’s dam-fueled decline

In Cambodia, the end of the year marks the start of the traditional season for making prahok fish paste, a key part of the country’s diet. But Cambodia’s food supply—and that of the 70 million people who rely on the Mekong river—is at risk due to impacts from large hydropower dams and climate change.

Every year around December, fishers, farmers and families across Cambodia begin the season for making the country’s traditional prahok fish paste, a vital staple in the country’s diet. But this tradition, along with the food supply and livelihoods of millions of people, is under threat from a growing ecological crisis.

Recent reports show Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake, the most productive freshwater fishery in the world, is in an increasingly stark decline with major social impacts.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture announced on December 23 that the freshwater fish catch among some of the country’s licensed fishers has dropped 31% compared to last year. Cambodia’s yearly fish catch is worth an estimated US$600 million.

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