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Project January 16, 2023

When a Flooded Forest Is Drowning

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This reporting project highlights the cumulative impacts of upstream Mekong River dams in China and Laos on Cambodia's Stung Treng flooded forest. Designated as a Ramsar site because of its exceptional biodiversity and uniqueness, it is home to endangered bird and fish species. But the forest is dying, and its demise will affect fisheries in all of Cambodia as it offers critical food supplies and a breeding site for migratory fish.

Located in northeastern Cambodia, the sprawling Stung Treng flooded forest once could dry out and replenish once the monsoon rains stopped. The cyclical release of water from upstream dams during the dry season—allegedly without consultation with downstream nations—has rendered that impossible and will likely lead to the complete eradication of the region's biodiversity.

Parts of the forests have already died, experts warn, leading to near extinction of certain fish species and seriously affecting sandbar-nesting birds, and mollusks.

The fate of the forest and how its destruction has impacted local ecology and surrounding communities have, to date, received little media attention. This coverage, commissioned by the regional environmental publication The Third Pole, is meant to help fill that gap.