The US Agency for International Development (USAID) Wonders of the Mekong Project is holding a photographic exhibition highlighting the stark impact of climate change and development on the Tonle Sap Lake.
Titled Tonle Sap: Heart of the Mekong, the exhibition by photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin illustrates the remarkable biodiversity of the lake, while calling attention to the wide-ranging consequences of climate change, human activities and development.
The show, held at the Bophana Centre in Phnom Penh, is open to the general public for the whole of May and is expected to be visited by around 2,000 people, according to a press statement.
“The extraordinary photographs portray the diverse way of life of fishing communities around the lake. While one collection of photos tells general stories about the environment, geography, and biodiversity of Tonle Sap, another series of photos compares the lake during the dry and flood seasons, demonstrating how life and people adapt to those different conditions,” it said.
The statement added that Tonle Sap – situated in the middle of Cambodia – is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. Its fish provide a source of protein for millions of Cambodians as well as neighbouring countries in the region.
Kritsanavarin told The Post on May 2 that in the last 20 years of his photography, he has witnessed countless changes on the Tonle Sap. These photos also portrayed how people have adapted to life on the changing lake.
During this period, some aquatic species have become rare and are threatened with extinction. The work also shows the impact of climate change on the lake, and on the people who dwell there.
“Since 2000, I have visited the lake more than 10 times, and every time I am learning new things. It is an amazing place, but it is clear that many things have been changing rapidly, with a decline of fish and the lost natural habitats,” Kritsanavarin was quoted as saying in the press statement.
He and the Wonders of the Mekong Project sponsored the exhibition to highlight the impact of climate change and development on the Mekong and Tonle Sap basins.
“During the one-month exhibition, we expect to reach approximately 2,000 visitors. Photographs of the current state of the environment and seasonal changes of the lake and river will be presented to the public to educate and promote the protection and conservation of these valuable resources,” the statement said.
Zeb Hogan, who leads the Wonders of the Mekong Project, said that action to safeguard the Tonle Sap and associated ecosystems will benefit all of the people of Cambodia by protecting a critical food source and a site of major significance to the country’s natural heritage.
“I hope that everyone who visits the exhibit gains a deeper understanding and appreciation for Cambodia’s extraordinary natural wonders and the challenges they face,” he said, as quoted in the statement.
The Wonders of the Mekong Project aims to improve understanding, appreciation and capacity to manage a functional and healthy Mekong River for fish, wildlife and people.