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Troubling the Water

A Dying Lake and a Vanishing World in Cambodia

Abby Seiff

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Potomac Books
Published: 03/2022
Pages: 168
Subject: Nature
eBook ISBN: 9781640125247


In this intimate account of one of the world's most productive inland fisheries, Troubling the Water explores how the rapid destruction of a single lake in Cambodia is upending the lives of millions. The abundance of Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake helped grow the country for millenia and gave rise to the Kingdom of Angkor. Fed by the rich, mud-colored waters of the powerful Mekong River, the lake owes its vast bounty to an ecological miracle that has captivated poets, artisans, and explorers throughout history. But today, the lake is dying. Hydropower dams hold back billions of gallons of water and disrupt critical fish migration paths. On the lake, illegal fishing abetted by corruption is now unstoppable. A fast-changing climate, meanwhile, has seen a string of devastating droughts.Troubling the Water follows ordinary Cambodians coping with the rapid erasure of a long-held way of life. Drawing on years of reporting in Cambodia, Abby Seiff traces the changes on the Tonle Sap weaving together vivid stories of those most affected with sharp insight into one of the most threatened lakes in the world. For the millions who depend on it, the stakes couldn't be higher.


Abby Seiff is a journalist who was based in Southeast Asia for nearly a decade, working as an editor at the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post and writing for publications such as Time, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and Pacific Standard, among others. She is now a freelance correspondent.


"A haunting and lyrical eulogy to Cambodia's once magnificent Tonle Sap Lake and the water culture of Cambodia."?Elizabeth Becker, author of You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War ?

"Groundbreaking. . . . The author exposes the human costs of [the Tonle Sap's degradation] with empathy and a deep understanding of the issues involved."?Milton Osborne, author of The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future ?

"The destruction of human life can occur slowly, indirectly, and even imperceptibly, which makes it no less of a crime. . . . This book reminds us of how much our humanity is connected to our environment."?Youk Chhang, founder and executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia