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BerichtGeplaatst: 14-12-2018 04:38:53    Onderwerp: Reageren met citaat

HANOI, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Local authorities in Vietnam's central Quang Binh province had planned to use its popular Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave as the venue for an international beauty contest, scheduled to be held in October.

The plan, however, although awaiting approval, has triggered controversy across the country as the cave's managers, cultural experts and citizens are greatly concerned that the event will damage the ancient cave.

Organizers of the "Miss Grand International 2017" contest are expecting to welcome more than 80 contestants from around the world to show off their national costumes inside the Thien Duong Cave, which belongs to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province.

Thien Duong Cave, discovered in 2005, is 31.4 km long, 100 meters wide at its widest point and around 60-80 meters high. It has been claimed by the Royal British Caving Association that it is the longest dry cave in Asia.

The cave, open to visitors since 2011, is one of 300 different caves and grottos in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang Natural Park, to be listed as a "UNESCO World Heritage Site" in 2003, for its geological values, including its unique limestone structures.

The park is one of the world's two largest karst regions, and the oldest karst formation in Asia, dating back some 400 million years.

According to Tran Tien Dung, vice chairman of the Quang Binh People's Committee, the decision to hold the pageant has not been made yet.

"If permitted, it will be the first time ever a beauty contest has taken place inside a cave of world heritage status," Dung told local media, adding that doing so will only cause two problems. Some registered tours to Thien Duong Cave will have to be rescheduled, and many onsite spectators will not be able to enjoy watching the show due to the cave's limited space.

Ho An Phong, director of Quang Binh province's tourism department, stated however that the impact on Thien Duong Cave, hailed among the most beautiful of its kind in the world, would be limited.

"The cave is capable of hosting more than 1,500 tourists at the same time, while the beauty contest is expected to bring in around just 200 people," Phong said, adding that "If the event is organized here, it will help a lot in promoting Vietnam's tourism in general and Quang Binh province in particular."

Such arguments, nevertheless, are not strong enough to convince those who are taking care of the cave, as well as cultural experts and heritage preservers. They have expressed deep concerns about the negative impacts that may occur during and after the contest.

Le Thanh Tinh, chief manager of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, said any human activities, irrespective of the scale, will change the cave's natural environment.

"The beauty contest will involve a lot of lighting and amplified sound which, when combined with the crowd of participants, will raise the heat inside the cave and damage its beautiful stalactites," said the cave's manager, adding that loud noise alone could also cause damage to the cave.

"It's wrong to say that there will be no impact at all. There will be negative changes in the cave that we won't detect until later. It's not like someone cracking a piece of stalactite which is something you would notice immediately," the manager said, voicing great concern.

Echoing Tinh, Pham Trung Luong, former director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, said beauty contests should not be held in caves, especially those in world heritage sites.

"No country has ever held any contest inside a heritage site like this. They should set up a stage with models of rocks and caves behind instead," said the expert.

Luong also said that the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is already famous for its extraordinary scenery, and, as such, there is no need to make such an advertisement.

To mitigate the public controversy, Nguyen Thai Binh, spokesperson of Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that permit for the Miss Grand International 2017 event has not yet been issued, and the contest organizers are still in the process of completing procedures to apply for the permit.

"Quang Binh Province's authorities have only given their consent to the idea; they haven't issued any official document, which is a must," said Tinh.

Quang Binh province, which garnered great publicity recently for being the location of the Hollywood blockbuster "Kong: Skull Island," which is screening in many cinemas in Vietnam, is calling for investors to buy into cable car projects around the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

In 2014, the province leaders pledged to build a 212-million-U.S. dollar gondola lift into the park's Son Doong Cave, which was discovered in a 2009 survey by British and Vietnamese explorers and is considered the largest cave in the world. Their plan was only halted after receiving strong criticism from the public and UNESCO.

In 2016, travel companies also threw lavish parties inside caves in the world-famous Ha Long Bay, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Vietnam. Months until the parties were opened to the local media, a ban had been issued.

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