Vietnam province inches forward with controversial Son Doong cable car project

The administration of Quang Binh says it is moving forward with surveys of the cave to plan for the construction of a cable car system

Inside Son Doong Cave

The administration of north-central Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province, home to the world’s largest natural cave, Son Doong, says it is moving forward with surveys of the cave to plan for the construction of a cable car system.

The statement, given on Thursday, contradicted a previous claim by the provincial tourism department that the administration had yet to issue an in-principle plan or approval related to the cable car proposal.

Quang Binh chairman Nguyen Huu Hoai said Thursday that the province is considering the call for the development of a cable car system inside Son Doong Cave, but so far that consideration only involves surveying the cave.

“It is the province’s intention to install a cable car system at Phong Nha-Ke Bang, and we are calling for developers,” Hoai said.

“However, there must be a thorough field study and a number of building options before we can open up the discussion to developers.

"Multiple authorities, as well as government bodies and UNESCO, must also be involved for the project to move forward.”

According to the chairman, the survey of of Son Doong Cave has been approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Responding to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s request for comment on Thursday, a representative from the Ministry of Construction said it had not yet received any directives or suggestions regarding the construction of a cable car system at either Son Doong Cave or the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, both of which are classified as a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site.

Meanwhile, Trinh Van Quyet, CEO of FLC Group, said the group has been designated as the prospective developer for the cable car system.

“FLC didn’t ask for it, but we were invited to develop the project no less than three times by the provincial administration,” Quyet said.

“We reluctantly accepted the offer, as we are also developing other major projects in the province. The province wants us to develop the cable cars to make the most of its tourist potential.”

According to Quyet, another major estate developer had previously been working on the project but eventually gave up.

Less than four months ago, Quang Binh’s tourism department asserted that reports claiming a cable car system would be built through Son Doong were groundless.

“Such information is ill-founded,” Ho An Phong, director of the Quang Binh tourism department, confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in January.

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 recognized by National Geographic as the largest cave passage cross-section in the world.

Tourists were first permitted to explore the cave on guided tours in August 2013 and can currently apply for permits, available on a limited basis, to explore the cave.

Only 500 permits were issued for the 2015 season, which ran from February to August.

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