Disaster in the Making

As predicted the low water levels in the Mekong look likely to cause huge food shortages come the New Year. The flooded forests where the fish breed have still not flooded and fishermen report catching many pregnant fish. A sample of the number of spawned fish in a cubic meter of water was particularly telling. Normally around 27 fish are found in this annual survey, however this year there were only 11, around a 60% decrease. To make matters worse the rice fields around the lake have also not flooded so there’s no new silt to enrich the soil as well as a dramatically reduced wet season crop.

The prime minister has now become involved, which shows how serious this is. It takes a lot to get this usually indifferent government to actually do anything meaningful. Given the prime ministers record on dams it seems unlikely he is going to accept that the dams in China and elsewhere are anything to do with the low water levels (China are the largest donor to Cambodia).  With the number of dams on Mekong tributaries expected to increase several fold over the next few years this year could be the turning point for the Great Lake. I don’t know how fast the fish population can bounce back but it seems to me that the effects of this will be felt for some years to come even if water levels return to normal next year.

I must confess to some concern as to how this could develop if hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of people have no food come spring, I guess the prime minister is also concerned, despite his seemingly iron grip on power, the fact is hungry people are angry people.


About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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