Record-breaking temperatures and drought are wreaking havoc across the Kingdom as officials yesterday reported the die-off of an estimated 65 tonnes of fish in Kampong Thom’s Tonle Chhmar protected area and warned the entire fish population of the lake may perish.
According to Nao Thuok, secretary-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, low water levels and high temperatures are now posing an existential threat to the fish population and measures are being taken to try and protect those left alive.
“Now, we are preparing temporary shelter. We bring water hyacinths from a nearby lake to spread on the [Tonle Chhmar] lake to make the water not so hot,” Thuok said.
“In 10 or 15 days, if there is no rainfall, all the fish will die.”
Established as a protected area in 2012, Tonle Chhmar has seen as many as 100 tonnes of fish die from storms, but not hot weather, Thuok said.
Water levels are at 0.15 to 0.2 metres, but they should be around 0.5 metres, Thuok explained, adding that the Tonle Chhmar Lake, which is usually connected to the Tonle Sap lake, is currently separated by 5 kilometres of dry land due to a poor rainy season and this year’s drought conditions.
Phann Phan, chief of Peam Bang commune, said authorities working with the community had brought in 20 boatloads of hyacinth, enough to cover 1 hectare of the lake.
According to Phan, Tonle Chhmar can cover 8,325 hectares at the peak of the rainy season, but currently it’s at about 20 per cent of that surface area.
Stoung District Governor Prim Ratha says the dead fish are mostly small, the kind used to make prahok. Yesterday, he said 200 boatloads were removed from the lake.
On Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen took to Facebook to urge citizens to conserve water and announce his order to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to allocate money to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) and Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology for drought relief in the 18 provinces currently affected.
NCDM spokesman Keo Vy yesterday said the NCDM’s vice president, Nhim Vanda, was currently working with the Finance Ministry to determine what funds were needed.
“We have some water for farming because we still have water in reservoirs, but the water for usage by humans and cattle is in shortage,” he said.
Meanwhile in Stung Treng’s Siem Pang district, Ly Nak, 26, said that in the past week, some 10 cattle died in Thmarda village, and residents are concerned more will die in the coming days.
Additional reporting by Phak Seangly