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The Floating Villages Welcomes You

There is a special river in Cambodia which flows towards north and south seasonally.Tonle Sap is one of the biggest lakes in Cambodia. As its name indicates –‘Great like’, the 120km long seasonally inundated freshwater lake, is connected to Mekong, one of the biggest river in the world.

The Miraculous River

During monsoon, the water level increases in the Mekong River and for these six months there will be the inflow of water from river to lake.After the monsoon, the lake’s size, length and width vary considerably from 160 km length and 2500 width to 250 km length and 16000 width-making it six times bigger than the earlier size. In November, the lake reaches its maximum size. The annual monsoon coincides to cease around this time of the year. Thus the water level decreases and the waters of the lake drains back into the Mekong River. As a result, the Tonle Sap river flows 6 month a year south-east to north-west and 6 month a year in the opposite direction-marking the beginning of a miraculous phenomenon.

Culture and Cultivations

This phenomenon continuing for millions of years has brought in a rich biodiversity in the Tonle Sap. Mekong brings the fertile soil which promoted agriculture to a large extend. The rice cultivation here provides the enough rice for annual needs. Although a slight variation in flood and drought will bring a lot of destructions and thus many festivals are celebrated to please the god. The history reveals that during old times, there were many reservoirs which were built to collect water during floods and made available during droughts.
Today due to the absence of reservoirs, only single cultivation is possible.
Another highlighting feature of this lake is the “floating houses”. As though the width and water level varies annually, the people here lives in these floating houses. Even the markets, playgrounds and churches are floating. The main source of income here is freshwater fishing. Around 12 lakhs of people are involved in fishing and about 4 lakhs tons of freshwater fishes are caught from this lake annually.

The Life in Water

Among the 30 lakhs of total population, 80000 people are permanently residing in the floating houses. Apart from the staple food, the 16% of National Income of the Cambodia has been earned from this. There are about 220 species of fishes in the lake and this is known to be the world’s largest inland fish sanctuary. Like our Western Ghats, this place is also declared as the biodiversity hotspot by UNESCO. From Jurassic period onwards it maintains its sustainability. Even though, the Tonle Sap Lake which preserves the life of a region is facing with a lot of environmental threats.
The specialty of job and residence in the water has made the life here so much difficult. Many orphanages are working in the floating villages for protecting the children of fishermen who hasn’t ever returned after fishing mostly at an average age of 56. The child deaths are common due to health issues and malnutrition caused by the non-availability of food other than fish.
Among lot of reasons, the crocodile farming is one of the reasons that effected the environment. In a typical crocodile farm there will be around 2000 crocodiles and they are fed with snakes which are hunted from nearby forests and river.

The Environmental Issues

Due to the decline of fishes in the river the scarcity of fishes forced them to feed the crocodiles with snakes. It also benefitted for the rapid growth of crocodiles as it provided them with more blood and proteins. The crocodile skin is used for the production of belts, bags and other fashionable items. Apart from these, the crocodile meats are also consumed by most of the people. There are about thousands of crocodile farms near the lake.
An annual estimation reveals that around 40 lakhs of snakes were being hunted to feed the crocodiles. In addition to this, the snakes are prey for many of the birds like eagle, vultures and other wild animals. This hunting has totally destroyed the biodiversity in the Tonle Sap Lake. This destruction has caused for the migration of lakhs of people to the nearby forests and thus eventually paving for the further exploitation of rich biodiversity of Tonle Sap.

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