The waters of the Tonle Sap River have dried up in the fishing and tourist area in Kampong Phluk commune’s Kampong Phluk village in Siem Reap province’s Prasat Bakong district, affecting the livelihoods of over 700 families who depend on fishing and tourism.

Kampong Phluk commune chief Sok Blong told The Post on May 18 that the absence of water had affected the more than 700 families working as fishermen or in transporting tourists who would go sightseeing there.

“Once the water gets too low the boats drive slowly. It takes a long time for boats to travel. For example, if there is enough water the boats spend only 10 minutes per trip. With the waters this low, it takes two hours for boats to go the same distance,” he said.

Blong added that during the rainy season most people there transported tourists because the views of nature there were beautiful. During the dry season their boats would remain idle because there are no tourists.

However, he said although the waters had dried up and made their livelihoods difficult, the authorities would not leave them hungry.

“We helped [some] families ... with cash payments. In Kampong Phluk commune, we have 193 families who received cash from the government delivered during Covid-19. The district working group and donors have always paid attention to helping here too,” he said.

Kampong Phluk village chief Ouk Lom also said the people were catching less fish with the water levels this low and that climate change and water level fluctuations made it difficult for the fish to adapt and survive.

“This year, the waters receded in December. But we do not know when the waters will rise again. Last year, the waters rose in September, which is abnormal. Originally, over a period of six months the waters rose and then over another six months the waters receded very regularly,” he said.

Om Savath, a representative of the Kampong Phluk fishing community, said that when the waters were shallow the community was concerned about the impacts on the 200ha of nature reserves there.

Savath said the rainfall that came early this year was good and was somewhat favourable to fishing, but when the fishing season arrived it allowed opportunists to fish in the conservation area and dam reservoirs surrounding it.

“Once the waters are shallow, it brings about some challenges for fishermen. First, incomes apart from the fishing have declined because of the low number of tourists. Hence, they do not generate any other income apart from the fishing.

“Second, the shallow water is also posing obstacles to fishing as well. But the community here remains highly committed to protecting the natural conservation area,” he said.