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article imageWorld's largest cave and UNESCO site threatened by tourism

By Karen Graham     Dec 3, 2014 in Environment
Public outrage and protests over the construction of a cable car system through Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park to Son Doong Cave, the world's largest, has people angry worldwide. Many fear the UNESCO World Heritage site is in danger of being destroyed.
If plans come to fruition, a cable car system capable of carrying 1,000 tourists an hour will be constructed in Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. But people in Vietnam and worldwide are protesting the project that would open the cave to mass tourism, while experts are warning the environmental impact to the caves and park would be devastating and irreparable.
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park covers 857.54 sq. Km. (211 902.7 acres). Created in 2001  it was ...
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park covers 857.54 sq. Km. (211,902.7 acres). Created in 2001, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003.
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Quang Binh Province, in the north-central coast region of the country, is about 500 Km (311 miles) from Hanoi. On October 22, the mayor of Quang Binh, Nguyen Huu Hoai, announced at a press conference that Sun Group, a real estate and resort developer in De Nang, would begin surveying the park where Son Doong is located before construction. People were justifiably concerned that this meant the cable car was going to be built.
Cable cars  are everywhere in Vietnam  making it an easy way to move tourists around the various cul...
Cable cars are everywhere in Vietnam, making it an easy way to move tourists around the various cultural and vacation sites.
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The $212 million, 10.6km long cable car system would connect Son Doong Cave with other caves in the park, all for a planned, “tourism, service and resort complex." The announcement drew criticism from environmentalists and even tourists, who in the past few years have made the trek, with guides, through the Son Doong and cavern system. Overseas experts were very vocal, slamming the project in newspapers and on television. Vietnamese activist Bao Nguyen started an online petition, which has drawn 68,914 signatures as of this date.
According to reports and local news sources, the Vietnamese tourism ministry gave the go-ahead for the survey to be done, thought to be a tacit consent. But on November 7, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism issued a dispatch that said:
"the cable car project lacked sufficient input from experts at the World Heritage Center of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its advisory body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Therefore, the construction of the cable car cannot be incorporated into the aggregate planning of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park [home to Son Doong Cave] at this stage.”
The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the biggest cave in the world. It s over 5.5 miles long  has a jung...
The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the biggest cave in the world. It's over 5.5 miles long, has a jungle and river, and could fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls.
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Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park and Son Doong Cave
Many people look at Vietnam in the context of the Vietnam conflict, that lasted until 1975. But Vietnam is a country with many culturally significant sites, from the imperial capital of Hué, the coastal regions, such as Nha Trang, and the caves of Hạ Long Bay and the Marble Mountains. But probably the most beautiful place in all of Vietnam is Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park and Son Doong cave.
The park was created in 2001 to protect the world's two largest karst regions. There are 300 caves and grottoes. The Karst formations on which the park sits are considered the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform anywhere in Southeast Asia. The park also protects an unusual ecosystem consisting of a limestone forest consisting of tropical moist broadleaf flora.
Looking back at the opening to Son Doong.
Looking back at the opening to Son Doong.
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The region is home to the rare Annamite rabbit and the antelope-like saola, the Chinese pangolin and Indonesian tiger. One of the most impressive sites is the underground rivers, with the longest one measured at 44.5 meters long. The park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003 because of its distinctive geological values.
Son Doong cave is in a class all by itself. In Vietnamese, its name translates to "Mountain River cave." The cave was discovered in 1991 by a local man named Hồ-Khanh. Most local people didn't go into the cave though. The steep descent and the whistling winds and roar of the underground river kept people away. But in 2009, the cave became internationally known after a group of scientists from the British Cave Research Association explored the cave in April of 2009. At that time, their exploration was halted after they came upon "The Great Wall of Vietnam," a 200-foot high calcite wall. The wall was conquered in 2010.
The stalagmite formations in the cave are unusual  and some of the largest in the world.
The stalagmite formations in the cave are unusual, and some of the largest in the world.
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Tourist didn't get to explore the marvelous cave until August 2013. when groups of 10 explorers paid $3,000 apiece to spend three days and nights exploring the caves and underground rivers with guides. It would be such a shame to deflect from the natural beauty of the park and its many caves by bringing the trappings of tourism into a world heritage site.
More about Phong NhaKe Bang national park, Son Doong, Vietnam, world's largest cave, karst
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