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Construction of Son Doong Ladders Halted Over Public Concern of Damage

The installation of ladders inside Son Doong Cave has been put on hold due to public opposition.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently asked Quang Binh province to halt the construction of one 25-meter ladder and one 65-meter ladder inside Son Doong Cave, reports VietnamNet.

The ladders, which were proposed by the tour company Oxalis, were aimed at helping tourists climb the Great Wall of Vietnam - a stalactite wall that stands at 90 meters tall.

Previously, tour participants have to return to the main entrance after hitting the Great Wall to exit Son Doong. With the ladders, the tour operator claims, trekkers would be able to leave the cave from its rear exit, reducing the duration of the excursion to four nights and three days. Nguyen Chau A, Oxalis’ director, told Thanh Nien the ladders would prevent trekkers from kicking the newly formed stalactites when climbing up the wall, while also acting as a faster emergency escape route.

Oxalis' proposal had been approved by authorities from both the People's Committee of Quang Binh and Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, in which the cave is located. Nevertheless, news of the ladders ignited concern among the public, prompting the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to issue a stop work order on May 17, reports VOV.

According to the ministry, Quang Binh authorities must submit an impact assessment before the project can be resumed.

Howard Limbert, a cave expert who explored Son Doong in 2010, told Lao Dong that he was saddened to hear claims of the alleged damage that the ladders would cause. Having worked closely with Oxalis on the proposal, Limbert affirmed to the news source that the project would act as a safety measure and would only have minimal impact.

The installation consists of drilling into the karst surface with 23 nails, 15 of which were put in place during the 2010 expedition of the British Caving Research Association, Limbert explained.

Quang Binh authorities invited several officials and press agencies to join an examination of Son Doong at the end of last month, reports Tien Phong. But as of today, the ministry shared that they have yet to receive any report from the province.

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

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