Quang Binh’s provincial leaders have pledged to push ahead with a plan to build a gondola lift in the world’s largest cave, apparently without having secured approval from national authorities…

 The north-central province’s leadership held a press conference on Tuesday to dispel environmental concerns about its plan to build a US$212-million cable car system inside Son Doong Cave.


An adventure tour through Son Doong cave. Photo by Oxalis

Truong An Ninh, a spokesman for Quang Binh Province, announced on October 22 that they had chosen the Sun Group (a real estate and resort developer in the nearby city of Da Nang) to survey the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, where Son Doong is located, before installing the system.

The two-section route covers 10.6 km from Tien Son Cave to the rear opening of Son Doong, which contains at least 150 individual grottos, a dense subterranean jungle, and several underground rivers.

According to the plan, 30 intermediate supporting towers will be built to buttress the cable.

Each tower will occupy around 10 square meters and feature a 360-degree camera that will help alert park staff of forest fires or other threats.

Nguyen Huu Hoai, Quang Binh’s mayor, told reporters from more than 30 media outlets that the project would not threaten any caves.

When asked what affect the system might have on Son Doong’s structural integrity (it lies on two fault lines) officials said the support towers would be small and as few as possible.

The system will only penetrate 300-500 meters inside Son Doong, he added, meaning tourists will have to walk into the cave to use the service.

“There won’t be any impact on the caves’ natural beauty or structural integrity,” Hoai said. “The system will not pose any threat to visitors’ safety.”

Le Thanh Tinh, director of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, said they would carefully choose locations for the support towers to ensure that the fewest trees possible are chopped down.

Officials said the system will be designed with the principles of conversation in mind and draw on lessons learned from 86 similar projects at national parks in 26 other countries around the world.

The province will carefully consider the project and consult central government agencies as well as the  United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) before approving it, Hoai said.