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October 27, 2021, 5:18 pm

Heritage at stake

(10:56:57 AM 15/01/2015)
(Tinmoitruong.vn) - The old saying that reads: “God doesn’t give with both hands” seems to be correct here in Vietnam since there are multiple natural heritage sites which force local authorities to face tough choices between tourism development and heritage conservation. This time, with Son Doong Cave known as the most majestic in the world, the country once again faces up to two conflicting sides – commercial exploitation and preservation.

 

 Heritage at stake


The idea floated last week by authorities of the central Quang Binh Province to build a cable car system connecting caves, probably including the world’s biggest Son Doong, has sent heritage conservationists and the like-minded into an uproar. Amid public and expert concerns about the possible impact of a cable car system on the jaw-dropping cave, local authorities explain that they have consulted Swiss experts, who point out that many World Heritage Sites across the globe now have cable car systems. A VND4.5-trillion project to develop a cable car system in Son Doong is claimed to be the most environmentally friendly and do little harm to the site. Moreover, according to the province, an increase in tourist arrivals would create more jobs for locals, thus improving the quality of life of local communities.

 

As reported by local media, nature lovers and conservationists are worried that a cable car system could result in throngs of tourists coming to the site from the current average of 240 a year, which would leave adverse impacts on Son Doong Cave and other attractions in the UNESCO-recognized heritage site of Phong Nha-Ke Bang Park. In fact, the development of Vietnam’s tourism has shown there is more harm than good in the process of tourism development. Numerous destinations have been ruined due to the influx of visitors. There is growing concern that Son Doong would face the same fate.

 

Howard Limbert, head of the British exploration team that has been working in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang area in the province over the past 24 years, expresses concern about the project. He says this project should be stopped as it would leave a damaging impact on Son Doong Cave and the ecosystem of the entire Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park.

 

Limbert tells Tuoi Tre newspaper he has discovered hundreds of caves in Quang Binh and taken steps to put 200 kilometers of local caves on the global list.

 

The expert and his colleagues have taken hundreds of thousands of beautiful photographs of caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang.

 

Damage to Son Doong Cave would be irremediable and a cable car system would rob the cave of its pristine charm and adventure thrill it has to offer, according to Limbert. The construction would also take its toll on the cave’s surrounding areas. Developing tourism at all costs would bring short-term benefits to the province, but lead foreign tourist arrivals to drop in the long run, he stresses.

 

Nguyen Van Tan, CEO of TBT-TNT joint venture, which specializes in arranging Vietnam tours for Japanese tourists, says in a report on the Government portal chinhphu.vn that the mystery of Son Doong is what makes it appealing. If this element is destroyed as a consequence of mass tourism, it would lead to a decline in international tourists and also have a negative effect on efforts to promote the hidden beauty of Vietnam. Therefore, Vietnam must consider choosing between a world-class brand and a cheap copycat for Son Doong in the future.

 

Nguyen Van My, chairman of Lua Viet Tours Company, is quoted by Voice of Vietnam as saying that the project may not generate huge profit as expected while the natural wonder brings about much more valuable things. Maybe the cable car system, if realized, would be able to bring more tourists and generate more revenues for Quang Binh but the brands of Son Doong and Phong Nha-Ke Bang could lose their prestige as a result of environmental destruction. The best way is to leave the mystery untouched because unlike manmade values, lost natural values can never be recovered.

 

Given growing public pressure, Nguyen Huu Hoai, chairman of the province, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the provincial government would not carry out a cable car system project in the area of Son Doong Cave, which is the world’s current largest in the UNESCO-recognized Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park, if relevant authorities and UNESCO disagree on the project.

 

Besides, a planned tramway would have two stations and a total length of 10.5km, beginning at the entrance to Phong Nha Cave and ending 300m from Son Doong Cave. In other words, the cable car would not traverse Son Doong Cave, Hoai says.

 

As reported by Dat Viet Online, Nguyen Hieu from University of Natural Sciences under Vietnam National University in Hanoi says many countries now have made commercial use of the values of heritage sites but preserved their natural beauty at the same time. With Son Doong Cave, the province should have consulted scientists, the public and travel firms before making a decision.

 

SGT/VNN
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