Activity 1: About a floating village
In this activity you will learn about life in a floating village, Kompong Khleang, where in the wet season the area floods, but in the dry season the waters recede and houses sit 10 metres above the ground.
Key inquiry question: How have people adapted to life on a floating village that experiences great seasonal changes?
Location and features of Tonlé Sap
- Look at the Map of Cambodia (on the right) and locate Tonlé Sap lake. The village of Kompong Khleang, which is not marked on the map, is situated by Tonlé Sap Lake.
- As a class, discuss the physical features of the lake and the surrounding area.
In many parts of the world, particularly the Asia-Pacific region, people face an uncertain future because of rising sea levels. Islands such as Kiribati are sinking into the ocean and Bangladesh suffers from devastating floods. Yet some regions are able to adapt and take advantage of seasonal floods. One such village is Kompong Khleang in Cambodia.
Kompong Khleang is located in the flood plain of the Tonlé Sap, the biggest lake in South-East Asia. The water level of the lake fluctuates greatly throughout the year so the villagers live either in houses built on stilts or on floating platforms. During the wet season, from October to January, the Mekong River floods into the Tonlé Sap and the surrounding area. By February and March the water begins to recede so that by April the outer areas of the lake are dry. Now the villages are no longer 'floating', but perch on stilts 10 metres above the ground.
Because of the regularity of the flooding and the gradual rise of the flood plain, the villagers of Kompong Khleang have been able to build a permanent community within the flood plain of the lake. Its population is estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 people live in harmony with the changing ecosystem that the lake provides, mostly fishing in the lake and farming in the rich flood plains around it.
In Kompong Khleang you can see a range of activities. The centre of the village, which is actually an island, is busy with its markets, shops, pagoda and schools, whereas a short distance away, century-old traditions continue as residents of every age prepare the smoked and dried fish that is sold in stores across Cambodia and South-East Asia.
About Kompong Khleang
Visitors to the floating village in Cambodia are amazed at how the residents have adapted to an ecosystem that changes drastically with the seasons.
- Discuss with another student what it would be like to live in a place where half the year you can only travel by boat and the other half you climb down 10 metres to farm on huge flat fields.
Look carefully at the picture of Kompong Khleang (on the right).
Use the See–Think–Wonder routine to see the human structures in the photograph that are different from your neighbourhood.
Describe why you think these are the way they are.
- Wonder, or raise questions, about things in the photograph you may not understand or want to learn more about. Discuss these with members of your class.
- Identify at least five human activities that you think are most important to how you would live in a floating island setting.
- Describe how your daily life would be different in the wet and dry seasons.
- Make a list of five things you do every day that would be very different in the wet season when your house is surrounded by water.
- Make a list of five things you do every day that would be very different in the dry season when your house stands on stilts 10 metres off the ground.
- Write five questions about aspects of daily life in Kompong Khleang that you would like to find out about.
- Use these questions when you are searching for information later in this module.