‘Insufficient water’: Cambodian farmers face climate change | Wealth


Tonle Sap, Cambodia During the monsoon season in Cambodia, rice farmer Sam Vongsay in the background fills his neighborhood with water and plastic debris from his home as Lake Tonle Sap floods the Mekong River.

But in the dry half of the year, which runs from December to May, Vongsay will not be able to get seawater from his home in Chong Khneas, located 220km (137 miles) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh.

The 40-year-old farmer does not have a working well or pumping equipment 2 km (1.2 miles) 1.2 km to reach his area, and he blames farmers upstream for diverting large amounts of water to irrigate their crops.

“The water level is not high enough, because some farmers in the highlands also shut off water,” Vongsay told Al Jazeera.

In the past, Vongsay and his family have been able to grow two crops of rice, but very little rain in recent years and water shortages have made it difficult to care for one crop. Vongsay said he tried to grow peppers last year to replace his various crops, but the seeds withered and died.

“We don’t have enough water,” he said. If we had that, we would not only grow rice, we would grow rice and other vegetables three or four times a year.

Areas around Tonle Sap are experiencing challenges of growing land demand, climate change and hydropower development
[File: Cindy Liu/Reuters]

Farmers along Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake face a growing risk for their livelihoods over land, drought caused by climate change and the development of hydropower destroys valuable water.

Since 2018, the volume of Tonle Sap has dropped below its record, according to a Report of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). which measured the amount of water between November 2020 and May last year.

The lake experienced a severe drought in 2019, as well as the dependent Mekong River, which stopped water pollution. In January 2020, the volume of the lake was approximately 6,000 million cubic meters, just over a third of its volume of dry season, according to the MRC.

Siem Reap Van Ra, 44, a rice farmer, told Al Jazeera that the weather had not been good since the 2019 drought, hurricanes and rains last year had dug up crops that had been planted in the summer.

To finance his farm and to spray the crop – which he had to do frequently due to inclement weather – Ra tried to plant rice twice last year.

“It was useless because I had nothing to harvest,” he said. “Doing it twice is impossible because there is not enough water.”

Population growth and rising land prices have led many people to cut down forests in the region for housing and agricultural land, making the lake and its shoreline very important.

The lake, whose climate is linked to the melting of snow from China in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Yunnan province, is also at risk of growing hydroelectric dams, which scientists have linked to the unpredictable flooding of the Mekong River.

Although farmers are beginning to suffer for their livelihoods, Tonle Sap’s fishing business, which produces about 500,000 tons of fish a year, has also been plagued. announcing small fish, which leads some fishermen to the fishing grounds or agriculture.

Brian Eyler, author of The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, told Al Jazeera that in addition to the Mekong hydroelectric dams, small reservoirs built to meet the needs of farmers – often without government permission – are forcing the lake.

“These drugs are stealing water efficiently in the surrounding areas and preventing complex migration patterns from fish around the world,” Eyler said.

Vongsay, a farmer near Tonle Sap, said the size of the canal in his area in 2019 that should help him and other farmers get more water from the surface has led him to abandon farming altogether.

Ricer farmer Sam WongsaRicer farmer Sam Vongsay and his family have survived a Buddhist holiday decorating business. [Courtesy of Danielle Keeton-Olsen]

“We agreed initially that it would be good to dig a trench deep, but we did not expect it to be too deep,” said Vongsay, explaining that he could not drive his rented tractor across the canal to plow his rice field. .

Vongsay said he and his family survived with the Buddhist holiday decorating business.

Chea Seila, a researcher for the US Agency for International Development’s Wonders of the Mekong, told Al Jazeera the combination of climate change, deforestation and infrastructure development at Tonle Sap shows that governments need to better understand environmental instability. water and establish mechanisms that take this into account.

“It is interconnected. When people use more water and do not store and recycle, there will be less water on the ground and on the surface,” he said. [if] we have enough infrastructure for irrigation, we have no water from [groundwater] spring and rain. It is still difficult to get enough water all year round [will be] in the future. “





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