The Water Rising and Water Falling Festivals were created by Ocean Recovery Alliance and NGO2 Foundation, to bring new awareness and water appreciation to villages along the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. This is one of the only lakes in the world which rises and falls by 6m each season, and the lives of the local communities are highly dependent on fishing resources and tourism. However, they lack waste management and recycling know-how, and also education in terms of how and where to put their waste. The rising and falling of the lake impacts fishing, the ecosystem with a UNESCO bird sanctuary, tourism, and the health of local communities.
The events happen twice a year with the water's seasonal rise and fall. the Water Falling Festival happens in late November, and marks the time when the water recedes from the villages, often pulling a lot of the plastic with it, out the canals, into the bushes trees, and eventually into the Tonle Sap Lake. The Water Rising Festival happens in late June, which marks the time when the water is starting to swell/flood in the lake, bringing the plastic waste back into the villages. Each event involves cleanups, water awareness activities and new recycling or waste management programs so that plastic is not put into the environment.
So far these events have engaged more than 12,500 community members, which includes youth, fishermen, monks and the local government. We have now also started the Siem Reap River Festival in November, as a warm up to the Water Falling Festival, to inspire the cleaning of the river downstream from the city, and before the plastic gets to the Tonle Sap Lake. This has been an enormous success, and we are now working with four villages who line the river, each managing their own net and catchment device to block the floating material. This is in collaboration with the use of our Global Alert app, and has lead to regular removal of material on a weekly basis from the river.
Our new "Harvest Plastic" program uses the special "rice bags" which we designed, not to harvest or hold rice, however, but to be used in all village households to capture (harvest) their plastic waste, to keep it from contaminating the other waste streams. This means it won't get dumped, or burned, which was often their only option. Now the plastic is collected at the pagodas or village centers, and in return, each family gets a bag of rice for their efforts. This has proven to be a big success, both in capturing household plastic, as well as outdoor, "environmental" plastic from the waters, riverbanks and bushes. It is then disposed of properly (for what can't be recycled), with new solutions on the way for even the hard-to-recycle materials. Stay tuned!
We have spectacular images and videos of our events, thanks to the Siem Reap Dream Team of video, photo and drone volunteers who help to capture these exciting and growing events. We can only make these events happen with your support, so we welcome contributions to help us expand these programs into different villages along the lake perimeter. We are also bringing new recycling and waste reduction opportunities, via knowledge and partners from some of the speakers at our Plasticity Forums, and we look forward to having these examples be replicated in other parts of the country, and globally as well. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to some of our early supporters who include Treeline Hotels, Mandarin Hotel Group, Rosewood Hotels, Lush Hong Kong, Malibu Foundation and Undivided Food.