© UNESCO/Nerea Ruiz - Locals moving their floating house in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, Siem Reap Province (2012)

Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve

In 1997 Tonle Sap Great Lake was recognized as the first Biosphere Reserve in Cambodia. UNESCO Phnom Penh Office supported the Royal Government of Cambodia in the designation of this area in order to promote the sustainable management of the site.

The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, covering an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. The lake also constitutes one of Cambodia's most important sites, rich in natural resources. Due to a unique hydrological phenomenon, when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain.

The vast wetland area resulting from this cycle is home to an extraordinarily high biodiversity, both in terms of variety and abundance of species. The Lake is also one of the most productive captive fisheries in the world, providing more than 60% of the protein intake for the Cambodian population.

However, because of its economic value, the Tonle Sap Lake is coming under increasing pressure from over-exploitation of its natural resources. In order to avoid this to go further, UNESCO Phnom Penh Office is providing technical support to the drafting process of the integrated Management Plan for the alleviation of poverty and enhancing sustainable development in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve.

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