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Bird news from Vietnam, from Vietnam's resident and visiting birders.

23 November 2013

Some recent sightings from Ba Be National Park

Spent a couple of days at Ba Be National Park earlier this week with Le Quy Minh, Simon de Albuquerque and Marcel Ashby and looks like we found something new for the Vietnam list …  wait for it …. da, da, da, da, da, ... Great Crested Grebe. Not the most exciting species for European birders maybe but it appears to be a first for Vietnam.

The bird was seen at close quarters happily paddling around the lake on the afternoon of 19th and again on the morning of 20th November. 
White-eared Night-herons (we made it five birds) were observed heading out to feed at dusk on 19th and returning to roost at dawn on 20th.Also a nice little group of nine Mandarin Duck and a pair of Tufted Duck currently in residence on the lake.

A few days earlier a Black Stork was seen flying along the Red River near Lien Hong by Simon and Marcel. 

Cheers all,

Richard Craik

The lonely Grebe (Le Quy Minh)
Deluxe Ducks - the Mandarin family (Le Quy Minh)

5 November 2013

Fansipan disaster

The Sun Group Corporation has commenced construction of a three-wire cable car system in Sapa town, Lao Cai province, to transport tourists to the peak of Fansipan Mountain – the roof of Indochina (3,143m), in the heart of the Hoang Lien National Park. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.

The 7 km-long three-wire cable car system – the first of its kind in Asia – will be able to carry a maximum of 2,000 people per hour, with a capacity of 35 passengers per car. It will shorten the current two or three-day journey required to reach Fansipan’s summit down to... 15 minutes. 

That cable car will seriously threaten the site in the following ways: 

-The construction will cause the heaviest damage to the mountain in its history, and destroyed the authenticity and integrity of the topography of the mountain top. 

-Damage to vegetation and ecology. A swath of forest and vegetation of about 10 meters in width has to be felled below the cable car line; at the top a large surface of vegetation have to be destroyed for the cable car station, stores, restaurants and concrete paths – and probably hotels! A cable car owner is always soliciting tourists for more profit, which leads to a crowded mountain top. Then merchants are tempted to open more stores and restaurants. The top of the mountain will become a source of pollution and will endanger the whole mountain. 

-A scar on the natural beauty of the scenery. The cable car, never in harmony with the natural scenery, becomes visual pollution. Travelers visit this mountain to seek beauty, knowledge and mental relaxation. Hiking in the Fansipan Mountain enables one to fully explore the sites’ natural, aesthetic and cultural value. The construction of the cable car will damage the value of the national park. 

-Not in accordance with the basic demands of tourism. Relevant local departments should have invested in outbound transportation construction and improved fundamental tourist facilities outside the scenic zone, but instead they cash in on transportation in the heart of the scenic zone at the cost of damaging irreparably the site. It takes two or three days with local porters (of the Mông ethnic group) to reach the top, while soon 15 minutes will be enough. When the cable car company will profit, the local people will lose. 

-A contradiction to the protection of a national park. The aim of a national park strategy is to reserve and protect the authenticity and integrity of the original relics for future generations. Profit-seeking development projects contradict the public service role and spiritual and cultural functions of the national park. 

The effect of building a cable car system is obviously to cash in at the cost of damaging the scenery. 

No cable cars are allowed in national parks in the United States. The well-preserved natural scenery draws tourists from home and abroad. Each of America’s five mountains over 2,000 meters above sea level attracts more than 2 million tourists a year. Mount Fuji in Japan stands 3,776 meters above sea level. The road stops at 2,000-odd meters, and there is no cable car or neat walking steps above that point. A small path leads all the way to the top. The mountain attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. Do the Japanese have no money to build a cable car? 

Cable cars and other commercial entertainment facilities should be built in their proper place, not in scenic zones and national parks!

Cable cars also are needed in some mountainous regions as a means of transportation. Cable cars are promising, but not in the wrong place!

The summit of Mount Fansipan