This story excerpt was translated from Khmer. To read the original story in full, visit Camboja News.
Kong Chanthy shows a fresh face as he recalls the past. Thirty years ago, the flooded forest in the middle of the Mekong River in northeastern Cambodia, south of the border with Laos, was full of thriving life and community.
Kong Chanthy, head of the fishing and ecotourism community in O'Svay commune, said the area's forests not only provide food for the 13,000 people living along the river north of Stung Treng. It feeds on endangered birds and fish, some migrating to the Mekong River from the Tonle Sap Lake in the northwest of the country, the world's largest freshwater fishery. 60% protein to the Cambodian population. Trees and small plants also provide shelter for river creatures, escape from predators, and provide safe spawning grounds.
Reminiscing about night fishing in the 1980s, Kong Chanthy said: “We put salt in the boat [to keep the fish fresh], used a mason lamp to remove the oars. The fish jumped into the boat. ” Kong Chanthy has spent years researching this unique ecosystem and fish species in the area for government research institutions and NGOs.
The unique biodiversity in the area has not been forgotten. In 1999, the floodplain was designated a wetland of international importance under the UNESCO Ramsar Convention.
Covering an area of 14,600 hectares, the Ramsar site is an ecosystem that can be found along the 40-kilometer-long Mekong River. The spectacular forest landscape, such as the surrounding branches and acacia trees, adapts to this particular condition and attracts the same international visitors as the freshwater dolphins in the nearby deep pool. Its last member died last year.
Additional reporting and translation by Vutha Srey.