Abby Seiff discusses Troubling the Water: A Dying Lake and a Vanishing World in Cambodia (Potomac Books 2022). She will be joined in conversation by Sabina Shaikh.
About the book: 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.
About the author: 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 editor.
About the interlocutor: Sabina Shaikh is the Director of the Program on Global Environment and an Associate Senior Instructional Professor in Environmental and Urban Studies at the University of Chicago. Her current research Becoming Urban: Understanding the Urban Transformation of Migrants to Phnom Penh funded by the Center for International Social Science Research and the Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago.