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The Last Breath of the Tonle Sap

Thomas Cristofoletti & Robin Narciso (Italy)

Fisherman Piseth and his family live on the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake and they’re experiencing first-hand the consequences of climate change and the construction of the hydroelectric dams on the Mekong. Fish stocks have plummeted and the family is becoming increasingly worried about how they are going to feed themselves.

Once, the Tonle Sap lake represented an ideal home for Cambodian fishermen. Its unique hydrological feature, with its surface increasing up to 5 times during the wet season thanks to the water flowing from the Tonle Sap and the Mekong river, provided a reliable source of food and income.

But in recent years climate change, and hydro dam activity in the upper Mekong, is reshaping this fragile ecosystem that plays a vital role in Cambodia’s food supply.

According to the Mekong River Commission, 2020 has reported the lowest flows of the Tonle Sap river since 1997 and consequently it has never fully reversed jeopardizing the livelihood of fishermen living off the lake.


This documentary was shot by Thomas Cristofoletti & produced and edited by Robin Narciso.

Italian born, Thomas Cristofoletti has been working in Southeast Asia as photographer and film-maker since 2010.

Especially passionate about climate change, Thomas’ long- term project focuses on the effects of development on the Mekong region and on underreported religious practices around the world.

Thomas’ work has been published in international magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and The South China Morning Post. 



Robin Narciso is a creative producer and communication expert. He moved to South East Asia in 2013 to work for Oxfam as a communication officer and document the impact of hydropower development on local communities in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

In 2015 he started to work as a freelance creative producer and editor. Since then, he has been developing video and multimedia content for the private sector and international NGOs such as Fauna & Flora international, Care, WWF, and Hagar.