Archive for Tonle Sap

Cambodia’s Ecology

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by Thim Kwai

A great problem in Cambodia is deforestation. In the last 40 years a major part of the formerly huge tropical rain forests has been cut or burned. In 1970 Cambodia was covered by 70% with tropical rain forest, what was decreased to 3.1% in 2007. That makes the highest deforestation rate in the world. That is partially due to legal and more illegal logging for the export into the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Vietnam, partially for the errection of huge cash crop plantations as rubber, cashew nut and more. The process is rapidly ongoing.

(See also the report on the Ratanakiri Page on deforestration there)

Although the Cambodian government officially put laws in power for protecting the environment, these laws in reality mean little or nothing. Corruption opens ways for logging activities. Critics and rangers who take forest protection serious get not seldom intimidated, attacked and sometimes killed.

A recent example are the Kardamom Mountains, where 20,000 hectares of the rain forest are planned to be destroyed for another hydroelectric dam project at the Areng River in the Areng Valley. As always in such cases a great number of (rare) animals (like the Siam Crocodile, of which only a few hundred individuals survived in the wild and the Asian Elephant together with 277 other animal species of whom are 31 threatened) and plants are threatened, as well as nine villages of the local mountain tribe of the Khmer Daeum (translatable to ‘original Khmers’). Operator is the Chinese Guodian Corporation. The Kardamom Mountains are one of the last bigger refuges for wildlife and nature and the area is part of a protected National Park. The construction of the dam with the infrastructural attributes like roads will lead to the usual secondary effects as poaching, illegal logging and more and more building activities.

Appraisal reports show that the construction of the dam would even be inefficient in it’s economical outcome and it’s power production. Other companies, who planned a similar dam project in the region withdrew their plans for these reasons.

By the way, the organisation ‘Rainforest Rescue’ started a petition to be sent to the Guodian Corporation and the Cambodian Government. You find the link here:

Another example of how little protection and National Parks mean is the Bokor National Park. Here, on a high plain in the forested mountains is a new city with housing for a 100,000 people and a complete infrastructure including ‘pleasure’ accommodations like huge hotels with casinos under construction.

The mangrove forests along the coastlines fall victim to coalmaking and shrimp farms. Consequences of the deforestation are soil erosion and the change of local climates. The soil erosion leads to unfertile land and to sedimentation of lakes and rivers.

The depth of the Tonle Sap Lake (the greatest lake in Indochina) decreased between 1960 and 1993 from an average of 50cm in dry season to 30cm. The Tonle Sap is part of the Mekong River ecosystem; the four or five dams built in recent years at the upper Mekong in China (where the Mekong is called ‘Lancang River’) demand their tribute. Also, the Mekong River transports great amounts of sediments sourcing out of the deforested areas of it’s catchment area.

The Mekong dams far up in China have additionally an impact on the richness in fish, because they are cutting off migratory fish species from their spawning areas. A much greater impact will follow due to the ongoing construction of the Sanyabury dam in Laos.

Officially are 25% of Cambodias territory under natural protection. But again, in fact this protection means little and does not deserve it’s name.

Cambodia also is one of the dirty, the very dirty countries. Litter is dropped everywhere. The market places are usually the ugliest places in the towns where masses of rubbish come together and are piled up. Almost everywhere where people live, litter is around. The litter, consisting of plastic of all kind, engine oil remains, electronics rubbish and also food remains, is a phantastic hotbed for vermins. Among them are flies. Flies in masses. Amounts of flies who darken the sky.

That makes hygiene a serious matter in Cambodia. Food hygiene in the verymost of the restaurants, including the ‘better’ ones (means more expensive, equipped with better furniture) is in the majority of the cases not even given on a basic level. The bad habit of most of the Cambodian people to spit food remains out onto the ground and generally litter everything they want to get rid of on the ground just where they are at the moment, is not only optically bad looking but feeds flies, cockroaches and other vermins.

The increasing amounts of plastic waste (bags, bottles, covers etc.) are a big problem. One-way plastic covers are generally a very bad solution for they waste first resources and second cause a problem in disposal. There is no ‘professional’ solution for waste disposal, so the plastic ends up in the green and on the streets, sporadically burned by the local authorities on dump sites outside the towns or burned in little garden fires by local people.

Apart from these impacts the air is of good quality in most of Cambodia, except Phnom Penh, because there are no big industries to pollute it. The same is said about the water in the most rivers; it’s quality is comparably good. Questionable is the usage of pesticides in agriculture and it’s hidden poisons.


This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Cambodia’. Read the whole article on Cambodia by Asienreisender.

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