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Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Why the flood

The source of the Mekong River is in the Himalayas. It begins with melted snow and ice. During the monsoon season floods occur regularly in southern China and this adds to the flow of the Mekong. The river forms part of the border between Thailand and Laos and also flows through Cambodia before emptying into the South China Sea near Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam.The total length of the Mekong is 4,180 kilometres.

During the rainy season there is so much water coming down the river that the delta in southern Vietnam cannot cope with the flow. Huge amounts of water are forced to flow back into the Tonle Sap, a tributary or perhaps appendix, in Cambodia.

The Tonle Sap is both a river and a lake. The river joins the lake to the Mekong. Even in the dry season the lake is huge. In January last year I travelled by boat from Siem Reap near the lake to Kompong Chhnang on the river. On the lake, I seem to remember that it was not possible to see one side from the other. That was in the dry season.

From the river bank in Kompong Chhnang in the dry season it is easy to see the other side. In the wet season water coming from upstream in the Mekong backs up the Tonle Sap river. The shoreline of the river and the lake can move as much as 50 kilometres and the depth increases by seven to ten metres.

When I look at the Tonle Sap here now it is hard to believe that it is usually a river. Even here it has become a huge lake. Likewise when I travel into Phnom Penh, there is often water on both sides of the road, sometimes as far as the eye can see or perhaps to the foot of the mountains in the distance.

People who live on or near the river either live on houseboats or in houses built on extremely tall stilts. When the water rises these people are surrounded and have to come and go by boat.

Now, the rainy season is almost over and the water is starting to run out again. As the water runs out rice will be planted.

Since I arrived here in February this year, I have taken many photos showing different aspects of the river and river life at various stages of the water flow. The links on the sidebar will lead you to many of them.

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