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Cambodia

As new development overwhelms Phnom Penh’s aging wastewater management system, the Cambodian capital seeks an ambitious remake.

Read more: One of Asia’s Fastest-Growing Cities Just Got a $1 Billion Plumbing Bill

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Source of income: Tourists and locals travelling in a ferry and boat along the Tonle Sap river during the recent Visak Bochea day in Phnom Penh. — AFP

Phnom Penh - The Tonle Sap is doomed.

The ecosystem of the gigantic lake whose annual flood cycle has been the pulse of Cambodia for millennia, and on which millions depend for food and irrigation is set to spectacularly collapse, throwing into question everything from Cambodia’s food security, to its economy, to its demographics.

Read more: Cambodia facing economic peril

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Cambodian women have joined a forest defenders’ group in large numbers, patrolling remote districts to catch illegal loggers in the act.

SANDAAN, CAMBODIA – On a bright day in Cambodia’s remote Sandaan district, a group of environmental activists loads small tree saplings onto half a dozen tractors.

Then, grinning like celebrities at the villagers watching them, they drive the tractors past the rice fields and into the dense forest where their work will begin.

Sok Am, 23, has arrived in Sandaan from a nearby village to join the four-day tree-planting event. The young woman says she is accustomed to spending days ensconced in the forest, on patrol.

“I love the forest and I want to protect it. We use it for everything – we make medicines from herbs and tree bark, and the trees protect us from the wind and hurricanes,” Am says. “But the loggers are always in the forest.”

Am is one of the estimated 120 women who have joined the 400-strong Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN), a grass-roots movement that formed over a decade ago to stave off the advance of loggers in Cambodia’s forests.

Traditionally, Cambodian women are expected to stay at home to care for children and cook for their families, not ride motorbikes through the woods to confront male loggers. But the PLCN’s women have surprised even their peers with their dedication to the cause, and some have taken on leadership roles within the group.

Eng Bisey is a member of the Prey Lang Community Network, a grass-roots movement that fights illegal forest loggers. (Cristina Maza)

Read more: The Women Confronting Loggers to Protect Cambodia’s Dwindling Forests

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