Exploring Tonle Sap Futures: Baseline results from hydrological and livelihood analyses
by Marko Keskinen, Matti Kummu, Aura Salmivaara, Someth Paradis, Hannu Lauri, Hans de Moel, Philip Ward and Pech Sokhem (2011)
The Tonle Sap Lake Area forms a critically important economic, social and environmental resource for the whole of Cambodia. Over 1.7 million people live in the lake and its floodplains, while up to half of Cambodia's population is estimated to benefit directly or indirectly from the lake's resources both in terms of livelihoods and food security.
Population in the area is, however, growing, and the Tonle Sap is - similar to the whole of Cambodia seeing exceptionally large age groups of young people (born in the 1990s) entering into the work force. Given the dominance of agriculture and the already heavy pressure on the area's natural resources, the Tonle Sap's future depends very much on what kinds of livelihood sources these young people will, and are able to, move to. At the same time the livelihood structure of the Tonle Sap area is diversifying with increasing amount of people transferring from traditional agriculture-based livelihoods to more modern sources of income, and the provincial capital - Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in particular - attracting more and more migrants from the rural areas.
The Tonle Sap area is, however, developing unevenly, and great differences are visible both between different provinces as well as between urban and rural areas. Also the ecology and natural resources of the area is likely to change in the future, as the lake-floodplain system is predicted to feel increasing negative impacts due to human interactions, in particular through intensive hydropower development in the upper parts of the Mekong River Basin.
This report presents the first tentative findings from the two research components (hydrology and livelihoods) of the 'Exploring Tonle Sap Futures' study. Before heading to the actual report, however, this synthesis aims to provide a general introduction to the area in terms of its hydrology, main natural resources and livelihoods.