Nong Han (Lake) Kumphawapi – past and present

The first time I visited Kumphawapi was in November 2007, together with Nop, Sven and Nut. I came back in January 2009 and 2010, and now two years later much has changed.

The water level is very low, due to the very dry summer, the driest since 60 years, which means that many of the fishing huts are on dry land. The vegetation has grown immensely, and where we just saw a few shrubs two or three years ago, we now find large trees and dense vegetation. The water lily excursions, which had been very low key, just with a few long-tail boats and local fishermen, has grown into a real business with two stations from where to depart and 15-20 colorful plastic boats at each place. Road signs lead from the main road to each of the departure points, prices have gone up and people are afraid that we might be some environmentalists who oppose to having parts of the lake turned into a little harbor for the boats. This means digging out large amounts of the lake’s sediments.

In a village on the western shore of Kumphawapi in November 2009 and December 2012:

The eastern shore of Kumphawapi, from where we departed in January 2009 to get lake sediment cores

I wonder how Kumphawapi will look like in a few years: more water lily excursions, more fishing boats, a much more destroyed lake vegetation, and if the dry years continue, even less water.

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2 Responses to Nong Han (Lake) Kumphawapi – past and present

  1. Barbara

    We have a few km from this lake for 27 years. The serious degradation of the lake started about twenty years ago when an earth bund several metres high was installed around the full perimeter of the lake as part of the doomed Mekong Chee Mun project. December is not the time for high water in this lake unless the monsoon finishes late, the monsoon normally finishes after September it would be quite normal to see more exposed vegetation 3 months into the dry season (your summer). Before the bund was installed the lake was home to many more fishermen, their boats and their villages. The fishing villages on the lake shores were demolished or otherwise abandoned because access to the lake waters was cut off for them and their boats by both the bund and the deep canal that now surrounds the bund.

    You should be made aware of the fact that the water level in the lake is not solely controlled by the weather. During the past 10/15yrs since the bund was built the perimeter rice paddies have been planting a second rice crop by using irrigation water pumped from the lake perimeter canal. Also, there is dam a few km South of Kumpawapi that controls the water level in the lake outlet. There are also dams in the seven rivers that feed the lake. The loss of the lakes evening buffalo herds because of the bund installation would also have had a decided effect on the lake ecology.

    The waters were well managed before the bund and there was a lot less water weed. At present the greatest threat to the lake ecology still appears to be from the experts that are trying to manipulate nature by initiating thoughtless projects.


    • Dear Mike,

      thanks very much for your comments. It would have been great to talk to you when we were at Kumphawapi! I know of the dam and of the irrigation work and from air photos also how the lake looked like before and after. But it would have been nice to have someone explain the changes that have occurred during the past decade/s and how this has influenced the lives of the people around the lake.

      In case you are interested, we now have some publications resulting from our work at Kumphawapi and neighboring Lake Pa Kho, where we investigated lake development during the past 10,000 years.

      Your guesthouse looks lovely! Next time I am in the area, I will try to arrange staying there.

      Best wishes

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