Inle Lake is a freshwater lake located in the Shan Hills in Myanmar (Burma). It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles (116 km2), and one of the highest at an altitude of 2,900 feet (880 m). Although not a large lake, there is a number of endemic species. Over twenty species of snails and nine species of fish are found nowhere else in the world. Inle Lake is suffering from the environmental effects of increased population and rapid growth in both agriculture and tourism. The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70.000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself. Most are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers. Sanitation in the villages around the lake is an ongoing concern for public health authorities, due to untreated sewage and waste water flowing into the lake. To ensure fresh and clean water, some villages now have enclosed wells and public access to the well water.
Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with outboard motors. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern.
In addition to fishing, locals grow vegetables and fruit in large gardens that float on the surface of the lake. The floating garden beds are formed by extensive manual labor. The farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds in their garden areas, anchored by bamboo poles. These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and so are resistant to flooding. The constant availability of nutrient-laden water results in these gardens being incredibly fertile. Rice cultivation is also significant.