Any report claiming that a cable car system will be built through the world’s largest cave Son Doong in the north-central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh is groundless, the provincial tourism department has asserted.
News has been circulated recently that a realty developer has conducted field study inside the cave, located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, for the cable car construction, raising concern among conservationists.
“Such information is ill-founded,” Ho An Phong, director of the Quang Binh tourism department, confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
To date, the Quang Binh administration has issued no in-principle plan or approval to such a construction, Phong underlined.
He added that if a certain individual or organization is really conducing field study to build cable car inside Son Doong, it is still “something very normal.”
“Businesses, scientists and experts can conduct independent, scientific and even cable car studies inside the cave, whatever,” he said.
“But whether they are allowed to implement the project, and how, is a complicated and closely supervised procedure from proposal submitting to approval.”
Phong said the Phong Nha-Ke Bang is as wide as 123,000 hectare , with many rough-terrain areas so a cable car may help visitors to travel in those unwalkable areas.
However, he pressed, “it is impossible to build a cable car through any cave in general, and Son Doong in particular, because the rugged terrain.
“Even when the construction is feasible, it is an unacceptable project as it does harm to the natural heritage,” he said.
Phong said any business wishing to build a cable car in Phong Nha-Ke Bang has to follow the law and has an environment impact assessment and approval from the Vietnamese government and judgment from the UNESCO.
In July 2016, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee expressed its concern regarding the cable car proposal during its 40th convention session in Istanbul, Turkey.
In a report adopted after the week-long convention, the committee expressed concerns about the potential impacts the allegedly proposed cable car service may have on the strictly protected zone of Son Doong.
In early January, the Quang Binh administration said in a report to the government that it had taken these concerns into serious consideration.
The administration underlined that it “always respects the need to protect the heritage and to enact protection and conservation measures for the site,” and as a consequence, “the cable car project will only be implemented with approval from the Vietnamese prime minister, and with agreement from UNESCO.”
Son Doong Cave became internationally known after a group of cavers from the British Cave Research Association conducted a survey on the area in April 2009.
The cave has since been known as the largest cave passage cross-section in the world, according to the National Geographic.
In early August 2013, the first tourist group explored the cave on a guided tour, and tourists can now apply for permits, available on a limited basis, to explore the cave.
Last year only 500 permits were issued for the 2015 season, which ran from February to August.