Dams threaten traditional way of life in Mekong Basin

Nikkei –

Sak Siam, 69, chief of Chnok Tru, a village in central Cambodia, is worried. The floating village of about 1,700 households is located on a tributary of the Mekong River. “The villagers will be unable to survive if the fish catch decreases further,” he said.

Hydroelectric dams constructed or under construction up the Mekong, in China and other countries, have changed the flow and the level of water in the tributary, disrupting the fish ecosystem there.

Most residents in the village depend on fishing for their livelihood. Not a few fishermen take to illegal fishing when their catches decrease. Some fishermen use small-mesh nets that catch fry as well, and others fish by night out of season. Indiscriminate fishing spreads and stocks decrease, leading to a vicious cycle.

“I am thinking positively of moving the village to the land,” the village chief said, seated on a swinging hammock made of a net seized from a fisherman who fished illegally. On land, the villagers would not have to depend on the declining fish because they could work in agriculture, including vegetable farming.

The education system for children could also be improved, he said. The village chief submitted a petition to the government, asking for an area of land to which the village could be relocated. However, he has received no reply for four years and remains unable to advance the relocation plan.

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