Photographer's Note


Cambodia has gone through turbulent times, but once again is at peace and is set to take its place as one of the most fascinating destinations in South East Asia. The once mighty Khmer Empire flourished during the Angkorian period between the 9th and 14th centuries when it was the cultural center of the region and exerted its influence over Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

The Tonle Sap Great Lake dominates Cambodia and is over 150km in length. Here bird life is profuse and in the midst of the lake one cannot even see the shores. There is a great stillness and tranquility on the lake as I passed though floating fishing villages intermixed with traditional palm trees.

85% of the total Cambodian population depends on agriculture. The farming system comprises rice cultivation, sugar palm production, livestock farming, and vegetable growing.

The sugar palm trees that you see in this picture are the “national tree of Cambodia” that represents a major cultural and traditional image of the country. It is called thnot in Khmer, or thốt nốt in Vietnamese. Its leaves, leaf branches and trunk become materials for house construction. Its juice can be collected for 3 months of the year from a male tree and 5-6 months from a female tree. The average yield was 5 kg of juice per day per tree — an equivalence of 13.5% sugar content. They produce 21,600 tons of sugar (sucrose) per year per hectare.

Cambodian people mainly use theirs sugar palm for:

 Providing sugar, fruits, germinated seeds and juice for human consumption and animal feeding.
 Using as the green fence around the household, as well as on the bunds of rice fields.
 Using to control erosion since it has a deep root system up to 15 m.
 Using the leaves as a nest for bats which provide manure as a good source of fertilizer. The bats can provide 0.5 to 1 kg of manure per day which could be sold to the city for flower gardens.

Back to the Tonle Sap Great Lake, it is the largest freshwater floodplain lake in Southeast Asia, increasing and decreasing in size annually from 2500 sq. km at the peak of the dry season in May to 12,000 sq. km in the wet season in October when people can boat among the tops of partially submerged trees, and varying in depth from 1m to 14m over the same period. This annual flood cycle creates an incredibly productive environment for both wildlife and people. There are 3.5 million people live on the floodplain around the lake and 170 floating villages on the lake itself.

Due to a unique hydrological phenomenon, the drainage to the lake reverses its flow during the monsoon season, with the waters of the Mekong River flowing upwards into the lake to inundate some 1.25 million hectares of forest and agricultural land for a period of several months each year. The immense wetlands area resulting from this cycle is home to an extraordinarily high biodiversity. The lake is fourth most productive captive fishery in the world, providing at least 60 percent of the protein intake for the entire Cambodian population. These rich fisheries, together with the productive agricultural lands in the inundated area and the wider Tonle Sap Watershed, have provided the foundation for the Cambodian economy since the time of the ancient Khmer Empire at Angkor. Indeed, the Tonle Sap and the cultural heritage of Angkor together may be seen as defining aspects of Cambodian national identity.

While crossing over the flow of the lake, I experienced a beautiful country with its mystic charm, and its exuberant vitality along side with the poverty, hunger and danger of landmines and unexploded ordnance left over after thirty years of war. Cambodia is in peace time now but landmines and UXO do not recognize ceasefires or peace agreements: they continue to claim up to three casualties everyday throughout the country…

For more info about this lake, please refer to the photo-book The Tonle Sap Great Lake, A Pulse of Life and Tonle Sap: The Heart of Cambodia's Natural Heritage.


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Nice week end

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Viewed: 3526
Points: 24
Additional Photos by Huy V Tran (huynt) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 846 W: 15 N: 932] (5081)
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