Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Smoke on the Water: An ecological disaster along the Tonle Sap



Smoke on the Water: An ecological disaster along the Tonle Sap

A man hoses down smouldering patches of scorched earth in Battambang province after a fire ripped through a flooded forest.
A man hoses down smouldering patches of scorched earth in Battambang province after a fire ripped through a flooded forest. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Smoke on the Water: An ecological disaster along the Tonle Sap

Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake has been the lifeblood of millions of people for centuries. But last year, climate change, deforestation and changing flood patterns – combined with a record-breaking drought linked to the 2015-2016 El Niño climate cycle – caused approximately 2,300 square kilometers of the wetlands surrounding it to burn. The fires caused an extraordinary ecological disaster, and the effects are only just being felt by those living along the river.

There has been practically no response to the crisis. While Environment Minister Say Samal has acknowledged the problem, solutions are beyond the scope of a single ministry, and even experts have been left wondering what can be done.

The Phnom Penh Post’s Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon has reported on the wetlands over the course of a year, and has also photographed some of the damage to the area on his reporting trips. An exhibit featuring pictures from two of his articles – Massive blaze threatens Battambang bird sanctuary and A Wetland Laid to Waste – will be on display at Meta House from 6pm on October 13 for three weeks. They show the heart of the Tonle Sap wetlands, the Prek Toal bird sanctuary, in two parts; first, during the attempts to control the fires when they reached their peak in May 2016, and then a year later, after limited efforts at recovery.

Marazzi Sassoon will also talk at the opening from 6pm tonight at Meta House.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished