Since I pretentiously consider myself something of a bio-regionalist ((more a function of my attachment to Arne Naess’ Deep Ecology – cf Judi Bari! than a purely academic function)) I’ve often considered the Tonle Sap the liver of Asia. It’s one of the most amazing of Nature’s organs. An enormous freshwater lake in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, every year the flooding of the Mekong forces the river connecting the Tonle Sap to the Mekong to reverse its flow. This causes much of the upstream silt and nutrients (as well as the poisons) to be sedimented into the lakebed of the Tonle Sap (which expands up to four times its dry-season size), before the purified water returns again to the Mekong, and heads into the Mekong Delta in what is now Southern Vietnam.
This process makes the Tonle Sap one of the world’s most ‘productive’ freshwater fisheries in the world, and has supported a peculiar form of riziculture for thousands of years – floating-rice flood retreat riziculture. Surprisingly sustainable, this combination still exists, but both the fish and the floating rice are endangered by the other processes going on around the lake, processes which ignore the fact of the lake as a living, breathing, flowing entity.
A good post over at New Mandala notes this, with some dire warnings.