An estimated 100,000 people from near and far Kampong Cham city took part in the three-day second Mekong River Festival to mark the annual celebration of a gift of nature that has been providing a sustainable lifeline for millions along its nearly 4,300 kilometre route through seven countries including Cambodia.
The theme this year was “Clean River, Good Community” to highlight the dangerous levels of pollution in the world’s 12th and Asia’s seventh biggest river that adversely affects marine life and communities dependent on the Mekong’s resources.
A multidiscipline sports gala and a slew of cultural shows added to the festive atmosphere all around town over the long weekend, with government machinery working to ensure the smooth running of the event.
“We saw a considerably bigger turnout this year compared to the inaugural event in Kratie. The Mekong riverfront proved an excellent location for most of the shows and popular sporting action,” said secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun, who is also an adviser to the Ministry of Tourism.
“It was also a huge commercial success, with thousands of stalls selling Cambodian products.
“Our main objective has always been to raise awareness among the public of the dire need to keep the Mekong free of pollution and to highlight this transboundary river as a great source of sustainable life for years to come,” he added.
The Mekong River system has the second highest acquatic biodiversity in the world after the Amazon. It also has the most concentrated biodiversity per hectare of any river.
“Keeping this environmental data in mind, it is our duty to play a committed role as a member of the Mekong River Commission to keep the stretch of the river that flows through Cambodia pollution-free,” Chamroeun added.
The three-day festival got off to an exciting start with a 3-5km fun run that started and finished at Kampong Cham City Hall and attracted 1,800 participants of all ages and athletic abilities.
As widely expected, some of Cambodia’s traditional sports like kun Khmer boxing, wrestling and boating were real crowd-pullers.
The presence of fighters from Thailand added to the excitement in the ring for kun Khmer fans, while the wrestling bouts were surrounded by cheering crowds.
The traditional boating also attracted a lot of visitors to the riverside.The swimming competition at the newly unveiled $2 million Techo Sen Swimming Center provided local competitors with their first feel of an international-standard
facility. Kampong Cham has traditionally produced outstanding swimming talent, and the province is also known for volleyball.
Being the Kingdom’s most popular rural sport, the volleyball centre was a beehive of activity over the three days, providing visitors with thrills and entertainment.
Traditional Khmer chess, paragliding, sepaktakraw and sailing were also part of the action.