PHONG NHA KE BANG NATIONAL PARK

The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003. It is located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in Quang Binh province, Viet Nam
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003, covered 85,754 hectares. With this extension, the site covers a total surface area of 126,236 hectares (a 46 % increase) and shares a boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos. The Park’s landscape is formed by limestone plateaux and tropical forests. It features great geological diversity and offers spectacular phenomena, including a large number of caves and underground rivers. The site harbours a high level of biodiversity and many endemic species. The extension ensures a more coherent ecosystem while providing additional protection to the catchment areas that are of vital importance for the integrity of limestone landscapes.
Núi đá vôi Phong Nha Kẻ Bàng


Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in Quang Binh province, Viet Nam, and shares its boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Lao PDR to the west. The property comprises an area of 123,326 ha and contains terrestrial and aquatic habitats, primary and secondary forest, sites of natural regeneration, tropical dense forests and savanna and is rich in large, often spectacular and scientifically significant caves.
The property contains and protects over 104 km of caves and underground rivers making it one of the most outstanding limestone karst ecosystems in the world. The karst formation has evolved since the Palaeozoic period (some 400 million years ago) and as such is the oldest major karst area in Asia. Subject to massive tectonic changes, the karst landscape is extremely complex, comprising a series of rock types that are interbedded in complex ways and with many geomorphic features. The karst landscape is not only complex but also ancient, with high geodiversity and geomorphic features of considerable significance.
The karst formation process has led to the creation of not only underground rivers but also a variety of cave types including: dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. With a length of over 44.5 km the Phong Nha cave is the most famous of the system with tour boats able to penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m. The Son Doong Cave, first explored in 2009, is believed to contain the world’s largest cave passage in terms of diameter and continuity.
A large number of faunal and floral species occur within the property with over 800 vertebrate species recorded comprising 154 mammals, 117 reptiles, 58 amphibians, 314 birds and 170 fish. The property clearly has impressive levels of biodiversity within its intact forest cover, notwithstanding some gaps in knowledge of the population status of some species. .
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Integrity
The property constitutes one of the largest protected karst landscapes in South East Asia. Covering an area of 123,326 ha and bounded to the west by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, all elements necessary to manifest the outstanding geological values of the property of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park are contained within the boundaries of the property. The inscribed property is completely surrounded and protected by a buffer zone of 220,055 ha and is designated into three management zones: a strictly protected, an ecological restoration and an administrative/service zone. The watershed protection forests in the buffer zone also protect the integrity of the property. Furthermore, the extension of the property enhances its integrity and connectivity with the karst landscape in Lao PDR.
There are, however, a number of issues that affect the integrity of the property. Wildlife poaching and illegal harvesting of forest products are a direct threat to biodiversity values. The property has also suffered from past developments and its integrity could be threatened by further uncontrolled tourism developments, notably by the proposed construction of a cable car and access roads. There is a need for the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments for any projects which could negatively affect the site. This would ensure that the natural landscape, geologic and geomorphic values, and key features such as primitive forest, caves, rivers and streams within the inscribed area remain intact. The property is situated within an area of high population density and as such a number of activities, such as cultivation, tourism, transport and freshwater fisheries could also impact on its integrity.
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Protection and management requirements
Originally designated as a Nature Reserve in 1986, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was established in 2001 under the Decision 189/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister and is managed by a Management Board. The Management Board is responsible for protection of forest resources and biodiversity and was established in 1994. Cave conservation and the provision of a tourism service are the responsibility of the Cultural and Ecological Tourist Centre under the Management Board. The property is also included in the Special National Heritage List (2009), and the Special Use Forest system (1999). The National Park is effectively protected by a number of national laws and government decisions, which prohibit any action inside or outside the boundaries of the National Park or a World Heritage property that may have a significant impact on the heritage values.
A Strategic Management Plan has been in place since 2012 and is based on existing plans, including the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan, the National Park Operation Management Plan and the Buffer Zone Development Plan. The Management Board oversees law enforcement programmes including ranger patrols and joint law enforcement operations on the border with Lao PDR. Nevertheless, the rugged nature of the country and community dependence on natural resources coupled with relatively limited resources for enforcement means that wildlife poaching and illegal timber gathering are difficult to eradicate and remain a challenging issue.
The Ho Chi Minh highway, constructed outside and to the north of the property is appropriately located and provides important and valuable benefit to the National Park in terms of opening up views of and access to the Ke Bang forest area. However, other road construction and tourism development will require rigorous and comprehensive assessment of environmental impact before decisions are made on whether they should be permitted or not. It is paramount that such developments do not impact on the karst and biological values for which the property has been inscribed. Impacts of increased development pressure and tourism numbers will also require continual consideration, planning and management to ensure that these pressures do not damage the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The property clearly has impressive levels of biodiversity within its intact forest cover, however, up-to-date data on large mammal species is also needed to confirm the population status of reported large mammals including tiger, Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, giant muntjac, Asian wild dog, gaur and the recently discovered saola.
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Geological significance

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is one of the world's two largest Limestone regions. In comparison with 41 other world heritage sites which have Karsts, Phong Nha has dissimilar geomorphic, geologic and biotic conditions. The karsts of Phong Nha can be traced back to Palaeozoic era, 400 millions years ago. This makes Phong Nha the oldest major karst in Asia. If the Hin Namnon, bordering Phong Nha on the west (in Laotian territory) was to be combined with the national park in a continuous reserve, the combined reserve would be the largest surviving karst forest in southeastern Asia (317,754 ha).
In general, there are two groups of landforms in the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng area, namely non-karstic and karstic landforms. Non-karstic landforms includes three types: The middle and low dome-block mountains developed in intrusive magmatic massifs; The middle denudation-structural mountain belts developed in terrigenous rocks of Cretaceous age; and The low block-denudational mountain belts developed in other terrigenous rocks. Karstic landforms in this area are of typical tropical karst which are divided into two groups of forms: The karstic forms on the surface including cone and tower karst, karrens, valleys and dolines, border polje, etc.; The underground karst consisting of caves.
In comparison with three other national parks listed in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia, namely Gunung Mulu National park  in Malaysia, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan of the Philippines and Lorentz Nattional Park in West Irian of Indonesia and some other karst regions in Thailand , China.... Karst in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng is older, has more complicated geological structure; diverse and complex underground rivers.
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Stalagmite in a cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park

Rivers and streams

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Nuoc Mooc Stream in the Park 


 

Cave and grottos

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng is home to the largest cave in the world[ and covers 300 different grottoes and caves. Before Son Dong cave was found, Phong nha cave was regarded by British Caving Association as the top cave in the world due to its top four records: the longest underground river, the highest and longest cave, broadest and most beautiful fine sand beaches inside the caves, and the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. In the survey conducted in April 2009, the British cave explorers discovered 20 new caves with total length of 56 km, including world's largest cave Son Doong.According to the assessment of Unesco , "The karst formation of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park has evolved since the Palaeozoic (some 400 million years ago) and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia" and "Phong Nha displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth's history. It is a site of very great importance for increasing our understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region."
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The mouth of Phong Nha cave with underground river

This cave, from which the name to the whole system and the park is derived, is famous for its rock formations which have been given names such as the "Lion", the "Fairy Caves", the "Royal Court", and the "Buddha". This cave is 7729 m long, contains 14 grottos, with a 13,969 m-long underground river. The scientists have surveyed 44.5 km of grottos in this cave so far, but tourists can only penetrate to a distance of 1500 m.
Phong Nha cave, like most of the caves in this area, has been continuously shaped by the Chay River. As one gets farther into the cave, the more illusory the stalactites and stalagmites look as they glitter when bright light is shone on them. The Son River flows into the mouth of the cave and keeps flowing underground, where it is referred to as the Nam Aki River, then this river emerges at a site 20 km to the south near Pu Pha Dam Mountain. The main Phong Nha cave includes 14 chambers, connected by an underwater river that runs for 1.5 km. Secondary corridors branch off in all directions. The Outer Cave and some of the Inner Caves have roofs that tower between 25 and 40 meters above the water level. From the 14th chamber there may be other corridors leading to similarly large chambers, but this area proves more dangerous for explorers because of the ongoing erosion of the limestone of the cavern. The Shallow Cave is located 800 meters from the cave mouth, where there is a spectacular landscape of sand and rock. Stalactites and stalagmites jut out like strange trees, exciting visitor's imaginations.
 

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