Cave experts enhance Hin Nam No World Heritage case

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Cave experts from the United Kingdom and Vietnam have reported their findings to local authorities to improve the World Heritage credentials of Hin Nam No (Karst) National Protection Area in Bualapha district, Khammuan province. 

Laos is currently preparing documentation to request the listing of Hin Nam No as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Cave experts Mr Howard Limbert from the UK and Mr Pham Quang Vinh from Vietnam discussed the unique natural location with Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Buangeun Xaphouvong at the ministry’s office in Vientiane on Tuesday.

The experts reported on the continuing cave exploration at Ban Shok and Ban Soy villages to assess the potential for adventure tourism and scientific research, expand the database of caves in Bualapha district, and to assist with the World Heritage application.

Potential ecotourism activities include experiencing the picturesque views of Xebangfay district, river journeys, crocodile watching, adventure caving tours, and meeting the local people.

So far 15 caves have been explored, mapped and photographed, with several areas checked for further exploration. All caves have been accurately mapped, and GPS located with all information passed on to authorities. A number of caves still need further investigation.

Tham Kon Nam cave is the second-longest cave in the region and has many more passages to explore. It has adventure tourism potential with easy access being located near a friendly village ideal for homestays, and adjacent to a crocodile watching area.

The researchers reported that Tham Pa Khon cave is of significant scientific interest. A very successful expedition explored over 12km of new passages, and there is potential for further discoveries which will be important for World Heritage status. They plan to return to continue their work.

Mr Buangeun thanked the overseas cavers for their ongoing cooperation with Lao experts and was confident the Hin Nam No survey information would greatly assist with the UNESCO World Heritage listing application.

He also noted the local people’s efforts in Bualapha district to work with authorities to protect the pristine environment of Hin Nam No.

The minister said the Hin Nam No project was also a symbol of the active cooperation between Laos and Vietnam and that many tourists from the eastern neighbour would be interested in visiting the future world heritage site.

The government of Laos and Vietnam are working together to achieve their target of listing the Hin Nam No (Karst) National Protection Area as Laos’ first natural world heritage site and the first transboundary World Heritage Site in the region.

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