Tonle Sap – Cambodian lake
Tonlé Sap means “Large Fresh Water River” but it is more commonly translated as “Great Lake”. It is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hotspot designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.
The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: from November to May, during Cambodia’s dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh.
However, when the annual heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap recovers to form an enormous lake. To emphasize further on the importance of water:
Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, was built at the convergence of the Tonlé Sap River and the Mekong River.
Most of the year the lake is one meter deep and with an area of 2,700 km².
When water is pushed up from the Mekong into the lake, it increases its area to approximately 16,000 km² with a depth of nine meters.
This expansion floods the nearby fields and forests, providing a great breeding ground for the fish.
Cambodia produces about 400,000 tons of freshwater fish per year, the
majority of which comes from Tonle Sap. These fisheries are not only essential to the diet of local residents and supporting the fish industry, but are important to the Cambodian economy as a whole.