Phu Kradung cable car!
I've camped at Phu Kradung and it is really a beautiful park. One of the unique aspects of the park is the long arduous trek up to the top. Whilst the park could do with an upgrade it already attracts a significant numbers of visitors given the access issue. It does need some added protection so the last thing this park needs is a cable car project spoiling the area.
Cablecar project backed despite protests, Bkk Post, 27/12/2011
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has vowed to go ahead with a controversial project to build a cablecar to Phu Kradung National Park in Loei province in the next three years.
Department chief Damrong Phidej insisted the project could be implemented in a way that will not affect the ecological system of the plateau or endangered species there. Construction of the cablecar will not destroy a single tree in the popular national park, he said. He has been pushing for the cablecar service so that the elderly can enjoy the park. "A national park is a national asset. People of all ages should have a chance to visit it," he said.
Mr Damrong added that the cablecar service would also allow day trips to the national park, which would reduce the number of overnight stays inside the park and as a result, the amount of litter there. He said people should not protest against the project as it will have no environmental impact. But environmentalists disagree. Rattaya Chanthien, president of Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, a nature and wildlife conservation organisation, said the cablecar project definitely poses a high risk to the environment because it will bring a much higher number of tourists there.
Currently the number of tourists is limited because not many wish to undertake the five-hour trek up the mountain. According to the department, the average number of tourists to Phu Kradung national park is around 60,000 per year. The cablecar project is expected to increase the number of visitors to 76,000 per year. According to Mr Damrong, the eight-seat cablecar unit will be two metres higher than the tree tops. That way, passengers will get to enjoy panoramic views of the park during the ride, estimated to last about 10 minutes.
In 2000, the department hired Team Consulting Engineering and Management to conduct a feasibility study for the project. According to the study, the cost of the cablecar construction would be around 400 million baht, while maintenance would amount to an additional 12 million baht a year _ or 300 million baht for 25 years. The first possible site _ with a line about 3.8km long _ is south of the current route up the mountain. The trail passes through various types of forest including a mixed deciduous forest, pine forest and dry dipterocarp forest.
The second site _ with a line about 4.3km long _ is on the western side of the mountain where there are mostly mixed deciduous forests. Although Mr Damrong claimed that no single tree would be cut down to pave way for the project, the team's study estimated that about 3.1 rai of forest would have to cleared for the cablecar _ or about 28,330 trees. The second site would affect an area of about 3.8 rai, and 11,190 trees would be felled.
A source close to the project said that since the team's study was conducted more than a decade ago, many things may have changed and a new study may be needed. The source raised concerns over the high construction cost and the possibility of ecological damage caused by overcrowding. "If this is a government project, we can limit the number of tourists," the source said. "The next question is whether it is worth the investment and when we can reach break point." "If this were a private sector investment, we would not be able to control the number of tourists. This will in the end have a strong impact on the sensitive ecological system in the national park."
The department's stance is in line with that of Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, a representative of Loei province, who announced earlier that he would support a study of the Phu Kradung National Park cablecar project. Both Mr Damrong and Mr Preecha are scheduled to visit the study site tomorrow.
Funds sought for study on cable car, The Nation on 17 March 2013
The public organisation Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) has called on the government to provide funds for the study of a 3.8-km cable-car service at Phu Kradung National Park even as environmentalists continue to oppose the proposal.
At a seminar held by DASTA entitled "Phu Kradung's cable car only a part of ecological system", Narikattipak Sangsanit said the agency has not resolved yet whether the cable-car system should be constructed, as it needs more information. The government has assigned the DASTA and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to conduct a research on the matter but the agency has not received the Bt20 million in funds the government was supposed to allocate for the study.
Somsak Kachornchalermsak, chairman of the Northeastern Provincial Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector has been pushing for the development for the past 30 years. Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra had approved the study, which estimated that construction of a cable-car system would cost around Bt400 million. But there had not been any progress on the project until PM Yingluck Shinawatra took office. Natural Resources Minister Preecha Rengsomboon has been pushing for the project in the belief that it would upgrade Loei's tourism to international standards.
Seub Nakasathien Foundation director Nopprat Naksathit, however, opposed the development on the grounds that the rise in the number of tourists throughout the year would stop the local ecological system recovering. He said that over the past 50 years, tourists had been visiting Phu Kradung from October to February and nature had seven months to restore itself. "If there are visitors throughout the year, we will destroy tourism because nature will lose its balance,'' he said.
Phu Kradung National Park chief Thitsak Suriyachaiwattana said the park had conducted a survey of locals and they said they wanted a cable-car system because children are not interested in being labourers to carry tourists and their belongings to the national park. Paripon Wattanakham, a children's activist, said Phu Kradung does not belong to the people of Loei alone but to every Thai so they all should be allowed to take part in making the decision. "We must take into account the local way of life, traditions and local identity before making the decision,'' he said.
Sithichai Sithirat, a former Loei leader, said the development would destroy the local economy. Locals are able to trade goods along the route up to the park but if there is a cable-car, capitalists would grab this trade. He also opposed a rise in the fee to carry tourists' belongings from Bt15 per kg Bt30 per kg.