Trip Start Sep 11, 2010
20Trip End Jan 14, 2011
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In the great lake and biosphere reserve of Tonle Sap located in the heart of Cambodia, I saw another approach toward sustainable development. In the midst of the seasonally fluctuating lake there are brightly colored villages that float and drift on the surface. Hundreds of houseboats float atop bundles of bamboo. From the center of the lake the only land in sight is a distant mountain hovering above slowly churning water, like a basin of quicksilver. I visited the lake with an NGO called OSMOSE. Tonle Sap is the seasonal home to many endangered species of bird, as well as migratory fish species. To protect the lake from being exploited by illegal poachers and egg-collectors in the area, this organization set about developing the village of Prek Toal sustainably through a program of environmental education and employment opportunity
It is difficult to argue against the value of the conservation effort here, but there is a missing element of the human. The issue that led to the conservation problem is still, by large, unaddressed. While the local people have ceased illegal fishing and poaching (though they still need the income) the best fishing lots are sold off to large fishing companies. The locals we spoke with told us that they are confined to the open lake areas where the catch is much smaller whilst the valuable areas in the flooded forest on the edges of Tonle Sap are reserved as auction lots. Eighty percent of the fishing lots within the lake are auctioned off in this way, leaving 20% for the locals to access. The rangers complained to us that they are powerless to monitor the catch from these groups, as they often hire the military as their own private armed guards