In the tepid afternoon heat of the Cambodian summer it can be hard to think. It can be even harder to imagine the complete destruction of an entire lake. Yet that very thing has happened. Boeung Kak Lake which once offered the city of Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, a ready reprieve from the heat of day with its morning glory-scented breezes and sandy shores is no more.
Leased by Shukaku Inc., for an estimated $79 million (USD) the 133 hectare site(1.33 million square meters) has been not drained or dredged but filled with sand. The resulting rise in the water level has flooded the surrounding homes and villages. Since that time the amount of water has shrunk significantly as none has been allowed to flow into the lake, beyond what little rain has fallen.
What remains is little more than a pond filled with the slurry created by the dumping of sand into the water and the remains of
a few houses. Those that have left, after accepting a paltry sum well under the true value of the land, had to also dismantle or destroy their house, if the rising water hadn’t done so for them.
The families that remain, and there are a good number, are still facing eviction and the loss of income that will result in their leaving the lakeside. Many of them were dependent upon the water for their livelihoods as either fisherman or harvesting the plant life that was so abundant around the lake.
Humans are going to live near water. It’s inevitable. We’re so intimately tied to the element that it brings us life and death with no recourse for what we want, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try and bend it to our will. What’s been done to Boeung Kak is no mere matter of reshaping the course the water takes but wiping it out completely.
More often than not humanity has wanted there to be water. The few times when they don’t tend to be when there’s just too much for their own good. Phnom Penh, suffering as it does, like the rest of Cambodia from the monsoon one could argue is just such a place, where people wish for just a little less. But never at the expense of an entire lake.
Especially for a lake which provided so much for the city. Being four hours from the coast Boeung Kak was the ideal place to cool down during the heat of the day. Winds once wafted over its shores and down the streets as tuk-tuks trundle along and merchants hawked their wares bring a much needed respite from the oppressions and congestions of traffic and humanity.
The question is, with the lake gone, what will people do?
To find out more visit Save Boeung Kak.