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Security fears snag Fansipan cable car

Update: January, 30/2015 - 08:10

Great heights: A group of young adventures on the Fansipan Peak. Once operational in April 30, a three-rope cable car system will carry passengers from the bottom to the highest point of the mountain. — Photo Facebook Hoi Nhung Nguoi Thich Leo Dinh PhanXiPang

LAO CAI (VNS) — The world's longest three-rope cable-car system, extending from Lao Cai Province's Sapa Town to Fansipan peak, is expected to open in April.

However, the public has begun to doubt of the security of the cable system after Lao Dong newspaper reported that the project was begun in November 2013 before the Sun Group corporation, the project's investor, received the necessary licence papers from the Lao Cai Construction Department.

On December 16, 2014, the provincial Construction Department issued an official document saying that the investors should not ask for licence papers because the project was ratified by the local People's Committee.

Based on this document, the local People's Committee issued an official document affirming that the works in this project were exempt from licence papers.

But on December 30, 2014, the local Construction Department issued an other document saying that the work could not be exempted. It then asked the investors to follow the right process to apply for the papers.

It's difficult to know if the Construction department is right or not, but it seems clear that investors carried out construction before it got an official opinion from the Construction Department and the Lao Cai People's Committee on whether it was entitled to exemption.

In an official document issued on October 29, 2014, the local Construction Department affirmed that it had not ratified the project to build the 7.75ha station leading to the peak of the Mount Fansipan and the cable buttress tower. However, by then, the work on the station and the buttress were already almost finished.

Many people wonder why, when the provincial Construction department recognised this mistake of the investors, it didn't think of imposing any fines.

Considering the grandiose scale of the project, the licence and safety problems worried many people. Experts warned that to ensure the security of visitors, investors should have strictly respected construction conditions.

The construction of the cable car is being carried out during the first phase of the Fansipan Sapa tourism complex.

The project has a total investment of VND2.6 trillion, or nearly US$110 million.

The 6.5km long cable car can carry a maximum of 2,000 passengers an hour, with each cabin accommodating 34 passengers.

Once operational, the cable car will transport passengers from the base of the 3,143-metre Fansipan mountain to its highest point in 15 to 20 minutes. Currently, it takes one to two days to trek to the top of the mountain.

According to Tran Minh Son, vice president of the Sun Group corporation, investor of the project, the total weight of the cable cars can be as high as 400 tonnes. But several experts are afraid that it would be difficult to ensure the safety of a car when the peak of Mount Fansipan is swept with violent winds.

Even before the construction of the cable system, opinions were very divided on the cable car.

The Fansipan-Sapa cable car will form part of a major new tourism complex also set to include luxury hotels, entertainment facilities, restaurants and a golf course. The total project is expected to cost around VND4.4 trillion (US$208 million).

Contacted by a Viet Nam News reporter, Nguyen Ngoc Sinh, chairman of the Viet Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment, declined to express an opinion on how the project would impact on the nature and sight of the beauty spot.

He said that it would need a council of scientists to assess the project's influence on the environment.

"When a construction project is carried out, the investor must make a research to evaluate the impact of the construction on the environment and find optimal solutions to make sure it does not have a bad influence on the environment and landscape," he said.

Ta My Duong, a well-travelled architect told Viet Nam News, that building a cable car takes away the true meaning of mountain climbing to Fansipan. "Anyone who cannot climb the peak can stay well sound and safe at home," he wrote in an e-mail. — VNS

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