Songkhla Lake in Thailand is home to hundreds of fish, bird species

The Thai cabinet nominated the brackish water lagoon to be the nation’s next World Heritage Site.
Watjanaphol Srichumpuang
Songkhla, Thailand

The Thai cabinet has nominated the brackish water Songkhla Lake, located in three southern provinces and pictured on March 11, 2024, for a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A fisherman retrieves his catch at Songkhla Lake, March 30, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Nets and other fishing gear are checked following a day on Songkhla Lake, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Sediment deposits have built up in Songkhla Lake, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


The Songkhla Lake wetland is a source of aquatic plants, fish and birds, March 30, 2024.[Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Villagers in Phatthalung prepare a meal from fish caught in Songkhla Lake, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A fish carcass is seen in a dried-out section of Songkhla Lake, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A Songkhla Lake fisherman spreads out his catch of small fish, March 15, 2024.[Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A buffalo herder checks his animals in Phatthalung, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


Buffalo herded at the Thale Noi wetland in Phatthalung can dive for up to 20 seconds to graze on aquatic plants, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


A boy flies a kite while a villager in Phatthalung works fertile farmland around Songkhla Lake, March 11, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]


The sun sets on Songkhla Lake, March 15, 2024. [Watjanaphol Srichumpuang/BenarNews]

Songkhla Lake, Thailand’s only brackish water lagoon, hosts over 700 species of fish, crab, shellfish and prawn along with over 200 species of birds in the surrounding wetlands, making it one of the country’s most important biodiversity sites, Thai fisheries officials say.

The lake lies in three southern provinces: Songkhla, Phatthalung and Nakhon Si Thammarat. It is fed by small rivers and streams that empty into the lake and out into the Gulf of Thailand through a natural inlet. The lake has brackish water – a mix of fresh and salt water – and freshwater ecosystems.

Last week, the Thai cabinet passed a resolution to propose that Songkhla Lake and its associated lagoon settlements be included on the Tentative List of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This is the first step in declaring it a World Heritage Site.

The proposal “will bring many benefits to Thailand as it will stimulate the conservation of cultural heritage of Songkhla and promote tourism and economic growth in both the local and national level,” said Kenika Ounjit, deputy spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Songkhla Lake is considered a lagoon because it is a body of coastal brackish water lake that has an open inlet to the sea. These complex and diverse natural ecosystems of Songkhla Lake have created the distinctive cultural identity of the lagoon settlements,” she said.

Even as it becomes shallower because of sediment deposits, the lake has plentiful natural resources. Seventeen groups of farmers are raising nearly 5,000 buffalo in the freshwater wetlands of Phatthalung and Songkhla, according to the Thale Noi Wetland Foundation, an environmentalist NGO.

In addition, destructive fishing practices are a factor in damaging the ecosystem.

If approved, the lake would be the fifth World Heritage Site in Thailand. Already on the list are the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns, Historic City of Ayutthaya, Ban Chiang Archaeological Site and the Ancient Town of Si Thep and its Associated Dvaravati Monuments.


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