Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (Viet Nam) (N 951bis)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2003
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 29,240
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
July 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Ground transport infrastructure (Negative impacts of a road construction project in the World Heritage site)
- Illegal activities (Illegal logging and forest crimes (poaching))
- Management systems/management plan (Lack of a visitor Management Plan, Inadequate Sustainable Tourism Development Plan)
- Impacts of tourism/visitor/recreation (Cable car project to provide access to the Son Doong cave)
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 28 January 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/documents, which provides the following updated information:
- Since 2015, overall efforts in law enforcement have progressed to prevent illegal activities such as logging, poaching and wildlife trafficking in the property and its buffer zones;
- A detailed report of a recent survey of seven large mammal species indicated that their abundance has seriously decreased, with no trace of elephant populations within the National Park. Urgent conservation measures, such as intensifying forest patrolling and conducting monitoring respond to the survey results;
- Poaching is reported to be under control in most of the property but, together with illegal exploitation of non-timber forest products, remains a serious challenge in the buffer zone and in areas of the property situated close to villages;
- Cable car projects to access the Son Doong cave have not been permitted and the State Party affirms its clear commitment to comply with the Vietnamese laws and the provisions of the World Heritage Convention;
- Funding for research and awareness raising for wildlife conservation remain insufficient;
- Severe floods are reported to be increasing as a result of global warming;
- 14 invasive alien species were identified, the most dangerous being Mimosa, Golden apple snail and Bindweed (Merremia boisiana). There are ongoing efforts to eradicate Bindweed from the National Park;
- The revision of the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan covering also the area included in the property through the 2015 extension is underway;
- Additional conservation efforts include the collection of species samples for biodiversity conservation, the recording of plants and animals within the property, including an in-depth field study on Calocedrus rupestris, the recording of 44 new caves, research on water conservation areas, impact assessments of tourism activities on the caves and the documentation of historical and cultural relics in the property.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The State Party’s report demonstrates a firm commitment to addressing previous Committee decisions through actions such as the assessment of key species, the monitoring and control of invasive species and patrolling with the participation of local populations. However, the results of the inventory of key large mammal species show that pressure from poaching remains high, along with other factors including illegal encroachment. The urgent conservation measures proposed by the State Party are welcomed, and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue monitoring these key species and to further step up anti-poaching efforts along with necessary conservation measures.
A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property from 11 to 20 July 2018 (report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/documents). While the mission noted the efforts of the Management Board to address numerous issues, despite the scarcity of human resources (there is currently only one ranger per 1,000 ha for regular survey and patrolling), it concluded that wildlife hunting/snaring, poaching, encroaching and habitat disturbance continue in the buffer zones and in some areas of the property and represent the most serious threats.
The mission confirmed that the cable car construction to Son Doong Cave will not be approved but noted with concern that another proposal for a cable car to Hang En is still being considered, located 3.5 km of Son Doong. Such a construction would lead to a drastic change in the nature of tourism offers and the environment of the remote area in the heart of the property, and would certainly cause irreversible impacts on the largely pristine environment, and home to several endangered species. The mission concluded that this or other similar projects that would significantly increase visitation to currently undisturbed or little disturbed caves in the property, alter the physical conditions of such caves, and would therefore represent a clear potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and warrant the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
In addition to the expansion of Merremia boisiana, the mission observed the spread of several invasive alien species. It is crucial to allocate appropriate financial and human resources to developing and implementing prevention and eradication measures.
For a balanced management of the property, stronger governance is crucial to maintain the OUV, given the threats resulting from the increase in human population pressure, visitor numbers and the expansion of tourist areas. No clear information is provided on the revision of the existing Sustainable Tourism Development Plan requested by the Committee following the extension of the property in 2015, and the recommendation of the 2018 mission to integrate all existing management tools into a single document, accompanied by yearly action plans and tourism use zoning, to facilitate their effective implementation. This process should be aimed at fully engaging the relevant authorities at national and provincial levels while strengthening the implementation capacities of the Management Board.
The planned significant development of mass tourism in the administrative zone within the property, and the urbanization of the buffer zone as a result of two Prime Ministerial Decisions are further cause for concern. Any major project should be subject to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), prior to being approved. The improvement of existing tourism offers and planned new products are recommended, and they should place a stronger focus on conservation and education.
It is also recommended that the Committee request from the State Party a broader application of the 2015 World Heritage Sustainable Development Policy for the benefit of all stakeholders given local populations and ethnic minorities’ significant reliance on the governmental subsidies and tourism related incomes.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.12
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.33, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Notes with appreciation the efforts undertaken by the State Party to address the management and conservation challenges faced by the property;
- Welcomes that the State Party has no intention to build a cable car to the Son Doong and Hang En caves or any other similar project within the property and requests the State Party to take the necessary measures to avoid a further increase in the number of visitors to caves located within the property and not to approve and implement any future infrastructure project in or near the caves without consultation with IUCN, World Heritage Centre and without the endorsement of the World Heritage Committee;
- Considers that such projects significantly increase visitation to undisturbed or little disturbed caves in the property or alter their physical conditions and would represent a clear potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Reminds that the State Party is invited to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information, including Environmental Impact Assessments, for any large tourism and/or development projects, which have potential to impact the OUV of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines before works commence or any irreversible decision is made;
- Notes with concern the persisting poaching of key large mammal species and other wildlife species in buffer zones and in the property, which, combined with habitat degradation and disturbance by encroachment and ecotourism activities, have led to a significant reduction in populations of large mammal species as well as prey species, and also acknowledges efforts of the State Party made for the past two years in stepping up law enforcement efforts and continuing wildlife monitoring activities, and requests the State Party to make further efforts;
- Also notes with concern the propagation of 14 invasive alien species, including the previously highlighted expansion of Merremia boisiana covering 1,000 ha in the property, welcomes the State Party’s preventive and remedial measures and further requests the State Party to continue monitoring trends, strengthening measures for eradication and report on the monitoring results;
- Reiterates its previous request to the State Party to revise and update the 2010-2020 Sustainable Tourism Development Plan and its integration with other key management tools, namely the 2013-2025 Strategic Management Plan and the 2013-2020 Operational Management Plan, as suggested by the 2018 mission, to enhance governance based on the overarching principles of sustaining OUV of the property, its sound preservation by paying careful attention to the balance between tourism development and biodiversity conservation, as well as increased benefit sharing among stakeholders;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to fully implement the other recommendations of the 2018 mission, in particular to:
- Enhance governance with an integrated and updated management tool and through the possible empowerment of human and financial resources of the Management Board in a variety of fields concerned, described as above,
- Clarify the functional zoning of the property,
- Adapt management of caves according to their specific vulnerability and requirements,
- Enhance further education and outreach activities for both staff, local populations and tourists on the values of the property,
- Consider the establishment of a mechanism to engage a wider range of stakeholders in the management and valorisation of the property,
- Continue its cooperation with Lao People’s Democratic Republic for strengthened preservation of biodiversity notably in the transboundary protected area, and for the future nomination of Hin Nam No national protected area jointly with the property in Viet Nam;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021.