The main streams of Cambodia are the mighty Mekong river and the Tonle Sap, the latter flowing the Tonle Sap lake in a stream to meet the Mekong at Phnom Penh. Around the area, which is commonly known as the Greater Mekong, about 300 million people in different countries depend directly on the river for food, fiber and clean water (Greater Mekong-Economic Analysis of Ecosystem Services, WWF). Sediments carried by the Mekong and settling along the Tonle Sap River contain nutrients which historically led to an abundance of fish and several now threatened bird species (RGC: The Fifth National Report To The Convention On Biological Diversity).

Greater Mekong subregion


Small islands dot Cambodia’s coastline, which is about 440 km long and consists of beaches, mangrove forests, corals, and sea grass (RGC: The fifth national report to the convention on biological diversity). While most of the islands have only been known to few foreign tourists a decade ago, tourism is now taking off around the coastal towns of Sihanoukville, Kampot, and neighboring islands.


Several hydropower projects are being planned along the Mekong and its tributaries, which, if implemented, may have significant impacts on communities living downstream. The coast on the other hand is under threat from unsustainable fishing practices, sedimentation, waste dumping, and population and development increases. Mangrove forests have been cleared for charcoal production as well as salt and shrimp farms. What is common for both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems is that the government struggles to enforce laws and regulations, and has not found a successful way yet to deal with overlapping legislation, cross boarder issues, and encroachment. Its capacities related to management plans and enforcement are still weak (National Marine Gap Analysis for Cambodia 2010). In a more positive development, the government, NGOs, and local communities have started to engage in collaborative efforts, e.g. in order to replant and protect mangroves (RGC: The fifth national report to the convention on biological diversity).