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 https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 29,240
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
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 https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/951/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 26 January 2017, 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:
- Permission has not yet been granted for the proposed cable car project to access Son Doong cave, pending an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Quang Binh People’s Committee has agreed to undertake research and surveys to identify the best option. It is stated that construction of the cable car will only be conducted with the endorsement of the World Heritage Committee;
- Based on the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan 2010-2020 and on the General Plan for Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to 2030, the Special National Heritage Plan 2016-2025 has been developed and is being implemented. This includes periodic environmental monitoring and impact assessment at tourist sites;
- Law enforcement efforts have been made to deter illegal exploitation of forest products, hunting, trapping and wildlife transport. The number of violations is stated to have been significantly reduced compared to 2015;
- Various awareness-raising and educational activities have been carried out with the involvement of local communities, as well as community development activities to reduce human pressure on the property’s natural resources;
- In terms of biodiversity conservation, various activities have been undertaken, including among others the completion of the Forest Inventory Programme, the demarcation of the property’s boundary, and the monitoring of three key species (albeit unspecified in the report). A list of mammal species and their distribution in the property is provided;
- Additional conservation issues include the high density and low conservation awareness of the local population, inadequate funding for conservation, impacts from climate change, and invasive species, in particular Merremia boisiana, which covers an area of 4000 ha and is stated to cause biodiversity loss and affect the whole ecosystem.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The State Party’s efforts to enhance law enforcement, increase conservation awareness among local communities and improve the conservation of biodiversity in the property are welcome. Nevertheless, the information provided does not enable an assessment of the effectiveness of law enforcement, and indicates that illegal logging and poaching remain on-going threats. Likewise the data provided on wildlife species cannot be considered an adequate baseline for further monitoring, as it only indicates whether a certain species occurs and has been recorded in recent field surveys, without providing population estimates and trends. It is noteworthy that among many other species, the tiger, the Asian elephant, the Asiatic black bear, the saola and the wild dog have not recently been recorded, which is of concern in light of the decline in large mammal species sightings noted by the 2015 IUCN evaluation.
In light of the above, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its requests to the State Party to submit updated data on the population status of key large mammal species, and to provide data on the results of its law enforcement activities, including in both cases clarifications on the methods used, the frequency of patrols and the areas covered, visualized on maps.
It is unclear whether the Special National Heritage Plan 2016-2025 replaces or is complementary to the other aforementioned plans. Recalling the Committee’s request to the State Party to revise the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan to include the property’s 2014 extension and ensure that visitor use remains compatible with Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit the relevant tourism planning documents for the property to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN.
The State Party’s confirmation that the proposed cable car project to Son Doong cave, located within the strictly protected zone of the property, will only be implemented upon endorsement by the Committee is noted. However, the facts that Quang Binh People’s Committee has agreed to surveys and that research is being undertaken in the area indicate that the project remains under consideration. It should be noted that the cable car would facilitate access to the property and would therefore likely increase visitor numbers along with potential negative impacts on the cave’s sensitive environment, and could lead to an increasing pressure from illegal activities. Furthermore, cave tourism and trekking currently provide job opportunities for local communities, which would be reduced if the need for guides and porters is eliminated. Therefore, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its concern about this project and its potential impacts on OUV, and request the State Party to permanently cancel plans of the cable car development.
The inadequate funding for conservation, the impacts of climate change and the invasive species noted by the State Party are worrying. In particular, the statement that 4,000 ha of the property (>3%) are covered by Merremia boisiana and that the whole ecosystem is affected by this invasive species raises significant concerns. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to provide further information on the measures taken to address these issues.
Finally, in light of the above, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in order to assess its state of conservation and impacts from poaching, illegal logging, and invasive species, and to provide advice to the State Party regarding sustainable tourism that is compatible with OUV, including at Son Doong cave.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.33
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.91, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Welcomes the State Party’s efforts to enhance law enforcement, increase conservation awareness among local communities and improve the conservation of biodiversity in the property;
- Notes that the data provided indicate that poaching and illegal logging remain on-going threats and do not enable an assessment of the effectiveness of law enforcement and the status and trends of wildlife populations, and reiterates its request to the State Party to provide:
a) Data on the results of its law enforcement activities to address illegal logging and poaching,
b)Updated data on the population status of key large mammal species, including the tiger, Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, giant muntjac, Asian wild dog, gaur and saola,
and requests the State Party to include clarifications on the methods used, the frequency of patrols and the areas covered, visualized on maps;
- Reiterates its concern about proposals to construct a cable car to provide access to the Son Doong cave within the property, and takes note of the confirmation of the State Party that it has no intention to build a cable car system, either in Son Doong Cave, or providing access to it;
- Notes with concern that a number of other issues are affecting the property, including inadequate conservation funding, impacts of climate change and invasive species, and also requests the State Party to provide further information on the measures taken to address these issues, in particular to address the threat posed by the invasive species Merremia boisiana;
- Recalling its request to the State Party to revise the property’s Sustainable Tourism Development Plan in order to include the 2015 extension of the property and ensure that an integrated and environmentally sensitive approach to tourism is adopted so as to guarantee that visitor use remains compatible with the OUV of the property, further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, the relevant tourism planning documents for the property;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in order to assess its state of conservation, the impacts of poaching, illegal logging, and invasive species, and to provide advice to the State Party regarding sustainable tourism that is compatible with the OUV, including at Son Doong cave;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, 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 43rd session in 2019.