TONLé SAP (Khmer : ទន្លេសាប IPA: , literally large
river (tonle); fresh, not salty (sap), commonly translated to "Great
Lake") refers to a seasonally inundated freshwater lake , the Tonlé
As one of the world’s most varied and productive ecosystems the
region has always been of central importance for Cambodia\'s food
provision . It proved capable of largely maintaining the Angkorean
civilization , the largest pre-industrial settlement complex in world
history. Either directly or indirectly it affects the livelihood of
large numbers of a predominantly rural population to this day. With
regards to a growing and migrating population, ineffective
administration and widespread indifference towards environmental
issues the lake and its surrounding ecosystem is coming under
increasing pressure from over-exploitation and habitat degradation,
fragmentation and loss. All
The largest freshwater lake in
* 1 Overview
* 2 Lower
* 3 The Great
* 3.1 Cambodian floodplain * 3.2 Wetlands, flooded forests and deciduous forests
* 4 Volume fluctuation and flow reversal * 5 Sedimentation
* 6 Fishing
* 6.1 Fishery management system
* 7 Cultivated lands and rice * 8 Species diversity * 9 Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve
* 10 Cultural Significance - People and culture
* 10.1 Celebration of the Seven-Headed snake
* 11 See also * 12 References * 13 Further reading * 14 External links
Cambodian Floodplain - Great
Tonle Sap River
Tonle Sap Lake
Swamps and Marshes
LOWER MEKONG BASIN
Tonle Sap inhabitants
The Sekong , Sesan, and Srepok rivers - collectively called the 3S
Basin - are the dominant tributaries. All three enter the
THE GREAT LAKE ECOSYSTEM
The Cambodian floodplain or the
The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in
WETLANDS, FLOODED FORESTS AND DECIDUOUS FORESTS
A belt of freshwater mangroves known as the "flooded forest"
surrounds the lake. The floodplains in turn are surrounded by low
hills, covered with evergreen or deciduous seasonal tropical forest
dominated by species of
The lake’s flooded forest and the surrounding floodplains are of utmost importance for Cambodia's agriculture as the region represents the cultural heart of Cambodia, the center of the national freshwater fishery industry - the nation's primary protein source. Threats to the lake include widespread pollution, stress through growth of the local population which is dependent on the lake for subsistence and livelihood, over-harvesting of fish and other aquatic - often endangered - species, habitat destruction and potential changes in the hydrology, such as the construction and operation of dams, that disrupt the lake's natural flood cycle. However, concerns that the lake is rapidly filling with sediment seem - according to studies - to be unfounded at the present time.
VOLUME FLUCTUATION AND FLOW REVERSAL
TONLE SAP LAKE OVER THE COURSE OF ONE YEAR
Inflow starts in May/June with maximum rates of flow of around 10,000
m3/s by late August and ends in October/November, amplified by
precipitation of the annual monsoon. In November the lake reaches its
maximum size. The annual monsoon coincides to cease around this time
of the year. As the
There is extreme hydrodynamic complexity in both time and space and it becomes impossible to measure channel discharge. Water levels, not flow rates and volumes, determine the movement of water across the landscape.
Although the large amount of sediment in the Tonlé sap
Because sediment contains nutrients that fuel food webs, the Tonlé sap is actually benefitting from the influx. Sediment-bound phosphorus serves as food for phytoplankton through higher plants, and research has shown that the metabolizing of the chemical contributes to food abundance and quality. Internal nutrient cycling, therefore, plays an essential role in productivity of a floodplain. The nutrients bound to suspended sediments are important for the Tonle sap system, particularly to maintain its long-term sustainability.
The reversal of the Tonlé sap river's flow also acts as a safety
valve to prevent flooding further downstream. During the dry season
(December to April) the Tonlé sap
The lake occupies a depression created due to the geological stress
induced by the collision of the
FISHERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
* Fishery Laws: The 1987 Fiat Law is still in force. Many of the
regulations are largely based on colonial legislation. The fisheries
The most productive part of the Cambodian fisheries has been privatized for more than a century through a system of government leases on fishing lots. The rest is open-access. In the recent past, the lot system provided over US$2 million annually in tax revenues and more in an informal way. The open-access fisheries, however, do not contribute to public taxes.
When the Tonlé sap floods, the surrounding areas become a prime breeding ground for fish. During this time, fishermen are scarce; fishing during this time is actually illegal, so as to prevent disruption of mating. At the end of the rainy season, when the water levels go down, fishing is allowed again. Fishermen install floating houses along one half of the river, and the other half is left open for navigation.
Most of the fishing captains are of Vietnamese origin, and they
primarily supply the country’s markets. Fisherman Sakaloy explains,
“My parents were fishermen. We have lived in
The process of actually catching fish is simple, but the aftermath takes much more time and effort. Because of the drop in the water level, the Tonlé sap naturally carries away thousands of fish. The fishermen simply place cone-shaped nets into the water from their floating houses and then lift the net as soon as seconds later. Using this technique, two or three tons of fish are trapped each time and more than ten thousand tons of fish can be caught in under a week. One by one, fishermen, mostly women, cut off the fish heads then bring the fish back to the river to be cleaned and to remove the fat. Salting the fish for preservation is the final step in this process, but the fish will continue to macerate for several months in order to transform into a paste called prahok, a nourishing condiment that complements almost any dish. These couple of days, on average three days, of fishing supply enough prahok for the entire year. A vendor grilling fish at a local market
Fishermen use all parts of the fish for their own needs and also for profit. The removed heads of the fish are dried in the sun, becoming a good fertilizer they can sell. This small amount of extra money is acquired for cases of emergency, such as family illness. By boiling the fat from the bottom of the fish basket, fishermen can also make soap for their personal use. Through bartering on the banks, they exchange fish for rice. Excess rice is also sold for profit. Despite paying employees and buying an official fishing license, fishermen still “have enough money to feed my family for a year. So I don’t need rice fields.” To further emphasize the importance of fish in the local economy, the name given to the Cambodian form of currency is Riel, which is a small silver carp that is the staple of most diets.
The implication of the fishing industry in
CULTIVATED LANDS AND RICE
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The beginning of the dry season is also the beginning of rice season, which is the only source of wealth for peasants. A good harvest will provide enough rice for them to survive for the entire year, but if the floods are too big or too small, rice can become scarce. Because of this uncontrollable instability, many celebrations are held in honor of gods and genies that can influence nature and bring about a good harvest. Tonle sap rice fields
Historical research has shown that the old Angkorian civilization took advantage of the weather conditions by digging huge reservoirs during the wet season and releasing the water during the dry season using an irrigation system and the land’s natural slope. This double and sometimes even tripled the amount of rice crops per year, strengthening the developing nation. However, today, this irrigation network is no longer present, and peasants only get one rice crop a year. What has not changed is the planting of rice in fields as well as the survival value of rice. It is still the main source of income for peasants and the only currency used to bargain. They use the crops to pay for what they need, such as property rent for land to plant, and the rest is kept for the family to eat. A villager harvesting rice
In the fields villagers harvest and thresh traditionally, no machinery is used. As the sun rises, they reap the mature rice plants and replant new ones in their place. Harvested rice plants are cleaned, sprayed, and bundled. Women stoop for hours, their feet in the mud, to replant each rice root, and as the water recedes, a field of green is once again visible. Part of the rice harvest is grilled, ground, and winnowed, a ritual preparation for the upcoming celebration. Rice is also used to prepare lunch. One meal reflective of both the fishing and rice industry is Tonlé sap chicken. The rice and chicken is cooked in the river’s water, and prahok paste made from fish, is then mixed in to add flavor.
At the end of the rice season, villagers celebrate by marching in a procession to the pagoda. This is a chance for everyone to relax after the long labor of the harvest season. As well, it provides an opportunity to have fun and bond with the community. All the villagers wear their nicest clothes, musicians sing and dance, and men take the opportunity to court young women. Upon arrival, believers circle the temple three times and then proceed to present gifts such as clothing, dishes, furniture, and food. These donations, named Kathen by Buddha, provide help for bonzis, who in turn give blessings. This act of donation is essential in accumulating good karma for reincarnation, so eventually to reach Nirvana, or ultimate salvation, as well as for future harvests.
Crocodile farm near Tonle sap
The lake is home to at least 149 species of fish, eleven globally threatened species, and six near-threatened species. These threatened and near-threatened species include the spot-billed pelican , greater adjutant , Bengal florican , Oriental darter , grey-headed fish eagle , and the Manchurian reed warbler . Specifically, the large colonies of unique birds constitute the Preak Toal Bird sanctuary. In addition, the Tonlé sap also supports significant reptile populations including nearly extinct Siamese crocodiles and a large number of freshwater snakes. Although the area around the lake has been modified for settlement and farming, about 200 species of plants have been recorded.
One of the most legendary species living in the Tonlé sap is the
TONLé SAP BIOSPHERE RESERVE
In 1997, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
The Cambodian government takes responsibility for the fulfillment of three functions:
* a) a conservation function to contribute to the protection of biological diversity, landscapes, and ecosystem, including genetic resources, plant, fishery and animal species, and to the restoration of the essential character of the environment and habitat of biodiversity; * b) a development function to foster sustainable development of ecology, environment, economy, society, and culture; * c) a logistic function to provide support for demonstration projects, environmental education and training, research and monitoring of environment related to the local, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development.
Additionally, the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve established three zones: a core zone, a buffer zone, and a transition zone. Formally, the core area of a Biosphere Reserve is defined as an area devoted to biological resources, landscapes, and ecosystems. The core zone includes practices that protect sites for conserving biodiversity, monitoring minimally disturbed ecosystems and undertaking non-destructive research and related activities. As of today, the three zones are Prek Toal, Boeng Chhmar, and Stung Sen.
Despite this government protection, illegal fishing, poaching, and cutting of the forest for farmland are all still major problems. Because people living around the lake are extremely poor and depend on the lake for their survival, it is likely that this unsustainable living will continue. During recent years, the amount of fish caught has been steadily declining, which means peasants must also work harder to provide for their families. The government is working on supporting and educating these people to break this cycle of poverty and non-sustainability. Finding a balance between survival and conservation seems to be the major question for the future.
CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE - PEOPLE AND CULTURE
CELEBRATION OF THE SEVEN-HEADED SNAKE
Tonle Sap stilt houses
This celebration also goes by the name Water and Moon Festival and was established to mark the reversal of the Tonlé sap and open the fishing season. The festival lasts three days and begins on the last day of the full moon. However, because of the variation of the monsoon seasons, the reversal of the river does not always coincide exactly with the festival. In the simplest form, the celebration is a series of canoe races, including some 375 teams, and victory brings good fortune for the coming fishing season for the entire village. In addition, these water celebrations are a tribute to one of the Buddhist teeth that a nāga whose daughter married an Indian prince to establish the kingdom of Cambodia, lost in the depths. According to legend, when he was cremated, his tooth fell into the river down to the nāga kingdom.
In pagodas along the river, men prepare for the festival by either restoring sacred canoes that have existed for hundreds of years or building new canoes when the old ones are beyond repair. Canoes are made from one piece of a trunk of a coki tree; the wood of the coki tree is resistant to rotting. Each canoe is painted with patterns and eyes that symbolize the guardian goddess, often the spirit of a young tillage girl. This is a modification from the superstitious tradition of sacrifice of nailing actual eyes to the boat dating back before Buddhism. The morning after completion and after three sacred shouts by the crew, the canoes are pushed into the river and head for the capital at full moon. Some crews must row for hours, and others will row for several days. Being chosen as a member of the crew is one of a man’s highest honors, and members must practice to perfect team coordination. Only the best crews will get to the finals in the capital.
After two days of racing, all of the canoes come together to encourage the nāga to spit out the swelling waters of the Tonlé sap towards the sea. Firecrackers light the water, the royal palace, and the sky. This moment lets the legendary snake master of water know to return to the depths of the Tonlé sap and leave the power to the sun gods. This also marks the end of the rainy season.
The area is home to many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham
communities, living in floating villages around the lake.
Approximately 1.2 million people living in the greater Tonle sap make
their living by fishing on the local waters.
Floating basketball court on Tonle Sap *
Floating church on Tonle Sap *
A boy on a boat holding a tamed python around his neck.
During more than five months of the year, the great lake of Cambodia,
Touli-Sap, covers an immense space of ground: after that period there
is a diminution in depth owing to the great evaporation, but its width
remains nearly unaltered. Although its waters increase in volume
during the rainy season, these are not swelled by the streams from the
mountains on its western boundary, but by the strength of the current
from the Mekon which pours into it its overflow. — Henri Mouhot
(1864): "Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China" Royal
* ^ "Impacts of Hydrological Alterations in the
* ^ "