Beyond the Mekong

Troubled Waters in the Mekong Region

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Beyond the Mekong | Environment | Southeast Asia

Troubled Waters in the Mekong Region

A conversation with journalist Abby Seiff about the challenges facing Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake.

Troubled Waters in the Mekong Region
Credit: Photo Supplied

The plight of the Mekong River and the impact of climate change, dams, and illegal fishing has raised alarms bells across Southeast Asia and beyond.

But rarely reported are the lives of ordinary fishermen and their families who rely on the river and the Tonle Sap lake, which branches off the river from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and extends to Siem Reap in the northeast.

Journalist Abby Seiff has sought to address that issue with her new book, “Troubling the Water: A Dying Lake and a Vanishing World in Cambodia.”

Seiff weaves stories of the past with the present issues plaguing the Mekong basin and the impoverished families who are struggling with everyday life. Many are heavily indebted and are looking for alternatives, particularly for their children, including land, homes, and schools.

However, she told The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt that the situation is not beyond repair and increasingly China, the lower Mekong countries – Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam – and the Mekong River Commission are realizing the dangers posed by the damage that has been caused.

Seiff was based in Southeast Asia for nearly a decade, writing for publications like Time magazine, Al Jazeera, The Mekong Review, and the Pacific Standard, among others.

Her reporting has garnered several awards as well as fellowships from Yaddo and the Logan Nonfiction Program. She is studying for an MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College.

“Troubling the Water” is published by Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska.