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If 2008 was “the year of planning and trying”, and 2009 “the year of work”, then 2010 will be remembered as “the year of testing.

The Tonle Sap Lake is a unique environment and a jewel in the crown of earth’s bio-diversity for all who are privileged to be a part of it. A search of the literature will show that the flora and fauna of this region are well studied and protected by international conventions. In the past decade several international and local non-governmental organizations have dedicated themselves to protecting this biosphere and raising public awareness about it.
What is missing, however, is the recognition that human beings have an important role in this eco-system, and are not simply unwanted interlopers. The people of the Tonle Sap, those living both in stilted and floating communities, are as much a part of the lake and its flooded regions as are the fish, the birds and the trees. They have a right to protection and care, particularly as the reality of climate change becomes more and more apparent—and its effects so potentially devastating.

Accessing health care from many of these villages is a practical impossibility. Some villages appear to be 35 kilometers from the nearest health facility on official government maps, but because travel is not a straight line the travel-distance can exceed 100 kilometers. For a population that earns perhaps $2.50/day per family the cost of purchasing the fuel and/or hiring someone to take a family member to seek medical assistance is not feasible. Making matters even more difficult financially is the complex web of debt that more than 80% of the lake’s residents live with from year to year.

The Lake Clinic-Cambodia (TLC) has, for the past three years, brought health care and health education to seven villages; three in Siem Reap Province and four in Kompong Thom. It is challenging throughout the year. During the rainy season storms threaten and delay travel. During the dry season mud and concentrations of water hyacinths bog down and/or entrap all transport. The time and expense involved is formidable, and for small organizations it calls for a commitment and a spirit of involvement that is all too often a scarcity in this “new Cambodia”. Staff must endure these storms during the rainy season as well as the heat, the insects and the smells associated with low water.

This past year of 2010 has seen the lowest water levels that anyone native to the lake can recall. The reversal of the Tonle Sap River’s flow came six weeks late, and at its peak the water level was more than 2 meters below where they would normally be. Is this a unique event, or the beginning of a trend? Certainly this change from the norm holds the potential of catastrophic change for the people of the lake this year. Fisheries that depend upon the flow of the Tonle Sap River to bring fish eggs and larvae into the lake will face disastrous reductions in fish yields as the forests failed to flood at the time when young fish would find safety and cooler waters there.

An already stressed, and too often marginal population will suffer. Cambodians are a resilient people, but at this time even nature seems set against them.

The TLC1 Version 3.0


Here she is!

She's a bit faster, and quite a bit more fuel efficient. The additional 12 square meters of "floor space" in the back allows for outdoor dining when the weather permits as well as a bedroom under the stars on clear nights.

Our "Charming Duckling" is looking more like a Swan everyday.

Yours,
Jon