Authors : Mak Sithirith and Carl Grundy-Warr
Publisher : Regional Center for Social Science, Chiang Mai University
Year : 2013
ISBN: 978-974-672-833-1


Floating Lives of the Tonle Sap by Mak Sithirith and Carl Grundy-Warr

Together, Tonle Sap Lake and River in Cambodia form part of a globally unique hydrological regime. In the wet season, the swelling Mekong River nearby pushes water along the Tonle Sap River and into the lake, increasing its size and raising its water level significantly. Then, during the dry season, water flows out of the lake, leaving many previously flooded areas around the lake on dry land.

People’s way of life in the area is intrinsically linked to this flood ‘pulse’, with human settlements moving in their entirety with the rising and falling waters. Some villages move vertically up and down in-situ, while others move up and down and also laterally — by several kilometers. Some settlements even move locations — following the shore line of the lake.

However, these patterns of settlement are ignored by the land use and water use rights systems in place, with the resource rich waters in particular being the scene of much contestation. The fishing lots system there gives the ‘owners’ sole access rights, allowing them to control their space in a variety of ways, and this impacts severely on the lives of the local people who depend on such areas to make a living.

This book takes an in-depth look at the Tonle Sap fishing lots system and the livelihood insecurity it has created for local people, plus how they have adapted to this situation using an informal economy sustained by both the fishing lot owners and local government officials. It also describes in detail the fishing practices of people living on and around the lake — the equipment they use, the fish they catch and the new and officially illegal practices they have had to adopt in order to survive.

Whatever regime is in place over the coming years around the Tonle Sap, this book provides a detailed record of the lives of those who live there, one that will be of great interest to scholars, researchers and anthropologists alike.