Vietnam’s caves win time
QUANG BINH : Vietnam’s government has announced plans to keep the famous Phong Nha-Ke Bang cave system in its natural state by banning all construction activities, including a controversial cable car project, until at least 2030.
Thanh Nien News reported that during a meeting of the central province of Quang Binha authorities, last week, officials from the construction ministry confirmed ecology and heritage values of the national park would remain undisturbed for the next 15 years.
The 344,000-hectare (850,000-acre) park won UNESCO recognition as a heritage site in 2003 due to its 300 caves and grottoes, that are more than 400 million years old.
Members of the British Cave Research Association explored the caves several years ago.
Son Doong, one of the caves, has been named the world’s largest.
The province expects to draw 1.35 million tourists, mainly domestic visitors, by 2030. Foreign visits will not exceed 55,000. The cave system needs to be protected from commercial tourism. There are moves to control capacity and open the caves only to those with a keen interest in exploration rather than sightseeing.
There was widespread opposition, last October, when the state government announced a company would build an 11-km cable car system at Son Doong to allow tourists to admire the landscape from above and visit the caves more conveniently.
Experts and even tourists voiced their environmental concerns, which then prompted the government to ask the province to cancel the project.
But it’s not clear what will happen after 2030, the report said. “Commercial enterprises are keen to exploit the caves value after 2030, which will ultimately lead to opening the caves to mass tourism.”
By Wanwisa Ngamsangchaikit - TTR Weekly - June 16, 2015