Residents Discuss Proposed Doi Suthep Cable Car Project

 | Tue 21 Oct 2014 22:15 ICT

CityNews – Around 200 people attended a public hearing on the proposed Doi Suthep cable car project last week.
Vice-governor Chana Paengpibun (inset) presided over the meeting. Photo: Weerasak Panyachod.
They heard arguments for and against the 2.3 billion baht project, which would be funded by the government if approved. Provincial vice-governor Chana Paengpibun presided over the meeting – the last on the exploratory study for the project – at the Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.

The ambitious cable car project, proposed by the government’s Pinkanakorn Development Agency, would start at Chiang Mai Night Safari and end at Doi Phadam in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The agency claims it would be the longest in the world, if approved.

Acting on behalf Pinkanakorn, Chiang Mai Night Safari manager Sarawut Srisakun said the consultancy company Tesco had been hired for around 10 million baht to conduct the exploratory study.

Tesco’s project manager Adul Islam said the study was now complete, and most residents were in favour of the cable car, although about 8 percent opposed it. Construction would take two years and the budget would be recouped in 30 years, he said.

Six main routes had been considered, each starting at the Night Safari. The study concluded that the most suitable route would run from the Night Safari to Phadam, via Ban Thung Pong and the Hmong village of Doi Pui – about 12 kilometres in total, with four stations and 42 supporting towers along the route. The journey would take 36 minutes, and the proposed cable car could take 500 to 600 people an hour, Adul said.

Dr Samakkee Boonyawat, an expert in environment management and natural resources conservation at Kasetsart University, said the route would be chosen based on which had the lesser impact on the environment. Information would be uploaded on the website of the Pinkanakorn Development Agency for residents to study, he said, adding that suggestions would be taken into account.

Speakers opposed to the project highlighted the environmental problems they said it would bring. Anuchart Thananchai, a member of a residents’ group opposed to the project and a student at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Education, said the cable car was not necessary to attract tourists.

Doi Suthep-Pui national park is a biologically diverse area at risk of landslides, he said, and the construction of the cable car would bring high risks and destroy the environment.

Prayad Jatupornpitakkul, of another residents’ group in Mae Hia sub-district, said residents should have received information about the study 15 days before the public hearing, but had instead been handed the documents at the meeting. Community leaders didn’t have clear information and many people had no trust in the project, he added.

Independent scholar Nasapon Povichit, speaking in favour of the project, said it was a new choice for tourism that would cause few impacts to the environment. Having a cable car crossing over the forest would help conservation, he said. He also dismissed arguments that Doi Duthep was a holy site, saying the project was about science, not superstition.

Recommendations will be sent to the government for approval. The total budget for the project is around 2,314 million baht. It is proposed that rides on the cable car will cost 300 and 500 baht, depending on the length of the journey.