Villages on the Water
SJR 02- 23 - 2010

On the Far East portion of the trip, we have been lucky enough to see two very different approaches to living on water. In Cambodia we took a boat out to the floating villages on the Great Lake near Siem Reap. In Hong Kong we toured the bay where the fishermen keep their boats. Both offer an interesting perspective on sustainable living. In Cambodia there is a literal village. The people there have everything they need. There are churches, schools, stores, restaurants, environment centers, doctors, and of course homes (lower photos). People move around via boats, either motorized or hand propelled. If the service a person needs isn't found on the lake, they can go up the river to the stilt village that is only flooded part of the year. Indicators like the families passing in boats and laundry hanging out to dry showed that village is very well populated. Also the people that live in the village tend to work there. We saw young men out mending nets and fishing and women out selling food from boats. This is truly its own, small, self-sufficient community. The people there could survive on their own if they had too, though I'm sure tourism helps the community a lot. In contrast to this is Hong Kong. While the village in Cambodia has everything needed to live day to day, the fishermen in Hong Kong still rely on the mainland for many things. The boats on the bay are fishing boats and houseboats(upper sketch). There aren't any other service buildings. A testament to this is a man we passed, driving his boat full of groceries back out into the bay. Another difference is that only men tend to live out on the boats. As our guide pointed out, the younger generation wants nothing to do with this older lifestyle and in 20 or 30 years the "Old Hong Kong" will probably be gone, since there isn't anyone to replace the fishermen as they retire. This struck me as very different from Cambodia. There the villagers seemed satisfied with their life. The young boys that were on the boat with us were very enthused to steer and seemed very knowledgeable in how to handle the boats. It seemed that they wanted to follow their father, which would cause the community to continue on in the future, unlike the fishermen community in Hong Kong. While they are both very different, each village has sustainable features incorporated. In Hong Kong the population is so dense that finding living space is difficult, so living on a boat in the bay is a very appropriate and sustainable choice. This lifestyle is also carrying on a culture that is slowing fading away, so there is also a sense of cultural sustainability. In Cambodia the buildings are made to move and be one with nature. As the water rises, so do the buildings. The materials used are also all natural. The rafts for the buildings are large bundles of small tree trunks latched together. This village is also sustainable since it has everything the people need just a short boat trip away. Any buildings that are on solid ground during the dry season are either on stilts so they are above the flood, or they are made to be easily and quickly moved to higher ground. A simple lean-to suffices for their needs and if the water washes it away it is easily rebuilt. Some of the buildings out on the lake also had photovoltaic arrays on them which I found very impressive. Of course there are draw backs to this village. The water is the main one. The people use this water for everything, washing, drinking, source of food. Due to all this and the use of boat motors, the water has turned brown and doesn't appear very clean, though the people don't seem to mind. I guess no system is perfect, though I feel America could learn a lot from these two distinct villages.

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