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Tonle Sap wonder under threat

Tonle Sap wonder under threat

A PLAN to dam the neck of Cambodia's great lake, the Tonle Sap, and massive dam

development along the length of the Mekong river could destroy one of the

world's natural wonders - the reversing of the Tonle Sap river, warns one

Cambodian ecologist.

In the rainy season the Mekong floods, inundating

the Tonle Sap river so that it reverses its seaward flow back to the

lake.

The lake - whose fisheries and other natural resources are crucial

to the survival of millions of people - expands its capacity from three to as

much as six times that of its dry season levels.

The natural phenomenon

has been celebrated since ancient times in Khmer culture with annual water

festivals.

The Tonle Sap dam, though probably far into the future, is one

of twelve dams now on the drawing board before the Mekong River

Commission.

"The government has no idea. The Ministry of Environment are

concerned but it is not really strong enough to debate it," Agriculture and

Fisheries Ministry adviser Touch Seang Tana said.

"The Ministry of

Industry wants to push, they want the [hydroelectric] power," he said. "If the

mouth of the great lake is blocked, the water from the Mekong will not be able

to get there," he said.

"The great lake is like a flood regulator of the

Mekong. Whole areas could be wiped out in flooding," Tana said. Damage to the

environment, forestry and fisheries would be massive if the dams were to

proceed, he said.

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