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Tonle Sap Lake

General Info
Tonle Sap is one of the most unique ecological water wonders in the world that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997. It is the largest lake in South East Asia and changes in size and dimension every wet season. With a minimum size of 2,800 km² and about 1 m depth during the dry season, the lake is fairly small. During the wet season the water of the Mekong River becomes so powerful, that it reverses the flow of the Tonle Sap River and pushes the surplus of rain water back into the Tonle Sap Lake. This transforms the lake into a huge natural water reservoir and the lake's size increases to approximately 15,000 km² with a depth of 8 m.
The Tonle Sap River connects the lake with the River Mekong at Phnom Penh, in the south east.

The lake is home to over 300 species of fresh water fish of which there are giant catfishes up to 300kg, 20 species of snakes, 10 species of turtles and some species of crocodile…
The Preak Toal Bird sanctuary in the lake is known to be home to large colonies of spot billed pelicans, oriental darter, painted stork and greater adjutant stork.

The area is home to many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham communities, living in floating villages around the lake. Approximately 1.2 million people living in the greater Tonle Sap make their living by fishing on the local waters.
With the continuous change of the water level, the people who live on the lake have to move their houses away when the water level goes down. Whole villages including schools, shops, churches and pig farms are getting pulled away to a place where the water is still high enough to float.

Cambodia produces about 400,000 tonnes of freshwater fish per year, the majority of which comes from Tonle Sap. These fisheries account for 16 percent of national GDP, making the fish industry not only essential to the diet of local populations but to the Cambodian economy as a whole.