Quang Binh province has paid special attention to managing and conserving the World Natural Heritage of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park and this focus has produced positive changes. In the new period, beside the above tasks, the province will concentrate on carrying out many solutions to raise the heritage value, especially drawing investment capital and developing tourism and services - the key economic sector of the province.
Jade in the jungle
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park was established on December 12, 2001, under the Prime Minister's Decision 189/TTg, covering a total area of 85,754 ha (expanded to 123,326 ha in 2013, making it the largest national park in the country). It was formerly known as Phong Nha Special Use Forest, established on August 9, 1986.
The park is a convergence of outstanding universal values of geomorphic features and biodiversity, with the largest Karst ecosystem in Asia. Massive tectonic changes formed unique caves, divided into three main systems, including Phong Nha, Vom and Nuoc Mooc. So far, 404 caves have been discovered, stretching a total length of over 231 km. Typical caves include Son Doong Cave - the largest cave in the world, Phong Nha Cave - a flooded cave with seven outstanding criteria, Thien Duong Cave - the longest cave in Asia with the most beautiful stalactites, and En Cave - the tallest and widest outlet.
Phong Nha - Ke Bang is a virgin forest, almost intact, with forest coverage reaching over 95%. Flora and fauna are diverse, with 2,952 plant species and 1,395 animal species, including many endemic and rare species recorded in the Red Book of Vietnam and the World Red Book such as calocedrus rupestris, brown-shanked douc, Hatinh langur and Nomascus siki (southern white-cheeked gibbon). Recently, a camera trap recorded the return of Sao La, an extremely rare and endangered spindlehorn species.
The area also holds various cultural and historical values, such as ancient Cham and Vietnamese relics found in some caves in the valley of Son River, the earliest evidence of human habitation from the Stone Age. It also preserves traces of King Ham Nghi with the Can Vuong Movement against the French invaders and plenty of wartime vestiges like Tam Co Cave, Y Ta Cave, Rao Con Cave and Tra Ang junction.
On July 5, 2003, at the 27th Annual Conference in France, UNESCO recognized Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park as a World Natural Heritage. On July 3, 2015, it continued to recognize the park as a World Heritage Site. On August 12, 2009, the Prime Minister signed Decision 1272/QD-TTg, recognizing Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park as a special national relic.
Given its importance, the Management Board of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park has carried out many communication and education programs on biodiversity conservation, especially of endangered and precious animal and plant species, for people in buffer communes. The agency has paid attention to capturing information about illegal loggers, hunters and trappers; and intensifying patrolling and scanning to prevent illegal logging and hunting.
At the same time, the board has worked with local authorities and forest owners to improve forest protection and forest fire prevention and fighting. Particularly, it has focused on contracting and protecting forests and supporting community development in the buffer zone to stabilize people’s livelihoods, increase their incomes and ease pressures on forest resources.
In 2019 alone, the board conducted 2,345 patrols, 10.6% more than in 2018, removed 3,151 snares, destroyed 25 camps, and stopped 277 people illegally entering into the forest. It issued 52 decisions on settlement of administrative violations and transferred two cases to police authorities for criminal prosecution. In the past year, no forest fire was recorded.
For tourism development, the board has worked with agencies and enterprises to organize conferences on tourism cooperation and development in Quang Binh and other provinces, launched contests about Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, and sports activities to attract tourists. At the same time, it has actively cooperated with travel companies to introduce Garden publications at domestic and foreign conferences, fairs, cultural, political and tourism events; and boosted tourist attraction on mass media.
In 2019, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park welcomed and served 953,227 visitors, an increase of 10.08% over 2018, including 780,240 domestic visitors (up 11.8%) and 172,987 international visitors (up 2.97%). Total tourism revenue was more than VND273 billion (up 1.56% over 2018).
Efforts to promote the heritage value
On January 7, 2020, the Standing Board of Quang Binh Provincial Party Committee issued Directive 39-CT/TU on conservation and promotion of the values of the World Natural Heritage of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. This is an important content that engages and raises awareness of all levels of authority, sectors and people about the position, role and importance of heritage management in the new period. Especially, this also aims to create the foundation for building Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park into a key national tourist site and a classy, attractive and famous tourist destination in the region and in the world, and help local socioeconomic development.
According to Mr. Pham Hong Thai, Director of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park Management Board, in order to effectively implement Directive 39-CT/TU, the board will urgently review plans of tourism management and protection and development; build a database of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park; actively advise and propose supplements and amendments to appropriate mechanisms and regulations on management and conservation of the heritage; and strengthen coordination with local authorities to develop plans for deployment of contents.
In addition, the agency will consult the province on investment promotion to diversify tourism products linked to heritage values. To do this effectively, it will first proactively review relevant legal provisions, especially the Heritage Law and the Forest Law, to ensure consistency and avoid overlapping and contradictions. At the same time, it will seriously carry out approved plans such as the plan for sustainable tourism development in Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park to 2020, with a vision to 2030, the general plan for construction of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park to 2030; the master plan for development of Phong Nha - Ke Bang national tourist area to 2030.
The board will focus on persistently advising the province not to approve mass investment but selectively pick truly capable investors, feasible projects and clear commitments on progress, he said. Priority will be given to projects with unique, specialized, highly competitive tourism products, match international tourism trends and commensurate with heritage values, focus on discovering and experiencing tourism product chains to encourage visitors to come more and stay longer.
“On the other hand, we will review and re-evaluate all existing tourism products to make investment and have upgrade plans to bring them into full play; regularly direct renovations and service quality upgrades; train and recruit high-quality human resources; protect the environment and food safety at tourist sites and restaurants; and strictly manage service prices and security,” Thai said.
Source: Vietnam Business Forum