Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a unique ecological
phenomenon surrounding the Tonle Sap or Great Lake of Cambodia.
it was successfully nominated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Map of the Tonle Sap lake and
The Lake is linked to the Mekong River
by the Tonle Sap River. From November until June the Lake flows
into the Mekong. However, each year during the rainy season (mid
June- late October) the Mekong River is inundated with rain waters.
Its lower delta becomes flooded and cannot flow into the sea
quickly enough to eliminate all the excess water. This causes the
Mekong River to rise enough to reverse the flow of the Tonle Sap
River causing it to flow back into the lake. The lake expands from
2500 km2 to more than 16,000 km2 creating an enormous wetland area.
This wetland area supports a tremendous amount of biodiversity
including plants, reptiles, mammals, birds and other animals. Many
of these are known to be rare or endangered. These wetlands are
also an important breeding area for fish from the lake and Mekong
In 2001, the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve (TSBR) of Cambodia was
established by Royal Decree of the government of Cambodia to fulfil
3 key functions. These are:
a) a conservation function to contribute to the conservation of
biological diversity, landscapes, and ecosystem, including genetic
resources, plant, fishery and animal species, and to the
restoration of the essential character of the environment and
habitat of biodiversity;
b) a development function to foster sustainable development of
ecology, environment, economy, society, and culture;
c) a logistic function to provide support for demonstration
projects, environmental education and training, research and
monitoring of environment related to the local, national and global
issues of conservation and sustainable development.
Water dwelling community on the Tonle
The Biosphere has been divided into 3 core areas for protection.
Prek Toal in Battambang Province, Boeng Tonle Chhmar in Kompong
Thom province and Stoeng Sen also in Kompong
Boeng Tonle Chhmar has been selected as a Ramsar Convention
site, which designates
wetlands of international importance. The core areas function
similar to national park areas and cover 42,300 ha. including the
Some people still live in these areas and are allowed to fish in
them according to fishery law in Cambodia. Illegal fishing and
poaching are major problems which threaten the fish population.
Cutting of the flooded forest to make room for farming is also a
serious issue. Many of the people who live around the lake are
extremely poor and depend on it for their livelihoods. It is a
challenge for sustainable development and conservation to coexist.
It is also of vital importance. During the recent past the number
of large fish caught has declined and the poor people who live
around the lake are having an even more difficult time providing
for themselves and their families. This creates a vicious cycle of
increasing poverty, and in turn increasing threats and danger to
the lake. This is also why 2 of the functions of the Royal Decree
support education and support for the people living around the
A TSBR Secretariat
to further the goal of protecting the biosphere and implement and
support the functions of the Royal Decree. Since 2003 the Cambodian
Government has supported the TSBR Secretariat with funding from the
Asian Development Bank
The major goal of the Secretariat is to develop a coordinated
management strategy. Coordinated management is important because
different stakeholders have various objectives. For example,
farmers build channels to irrigate their fields. However, this
leaves less water in fishing areas. Or farmers use pesticides on
their crops which can get into the water; then people who live on
the lake use this same water for bathing and other household uses
and can become sick. This creates conflicts between user groups.
The TSBR Secretariat attempts to lower these conflicts and find a
solution that provides sustainability for all user groups and
protects the biosphere reserve at the same time. The Secretariat is
also responsible for developing and maintaining a web based
knowledge repository for information about the lake and the
biosphere. This website contains over 10,000 textual documents,
over 150 tables and over 200 maps all relevant to the
website Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve Environmental