The mobile cabinet meeting on Monday approved in principle a request from Loei province for budget funding for the survey and design work for constuction of the long-proposed cable car up Phu Kradueng mountain, PM's Minister Phuangphet Chunla-iad said.
She said the request would now be considered by the Budget Bureau, which would determine its urgency.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwon said the cabinet had not given final approval for the requested 28 million baht in funding, because there were still conflicting opinions about the project.
Pol Gen Patcharawat said the ministry's permanent secretary Jatuporn Buruspat had been instructed to consult with other vested agencies before taking the budget request for consideration.
The cabinet met in Nong Bua Lamphu province on Monday. Before the meeting, Ms Phuangphet said the Loei provincial authority was seeking 28 million baht for the survey and the design work for the cable car, which was first approved in principle by the cabinet of the day 20-30 years ago.
She said the design was needed for an environment impact assessment (EIA) report to be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for approval.
The EIA report, if approved, would then be submitted to the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta) of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism for consideration, before it could be further forwarded to the cabinet, Ms Phuangphet said.
The design work was delayed because the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation approved a request to conduct a survey of the area only in November.
Asked whether there are still groups opposed to the project, Ms Phuangphet did not reply directly to the question. She said Loei is a tourist province and its attractions are not limited to Phu Rua or Chiang Khan in the cold season. The province should be attractive to tourists all year long, she said.
"The Phu Kradueng cable car project was approved in principle 20 or 30 years back, but it has never been carried out. I, as a former Loei MP, want this project to get started - for the people of Loei," Ms Phuangphet said.
She said the cable car would be an alternative for elderly people wanting to go to the top of the mountain in Phu Kradueng district for a full view of Phu Rua mountain and Loei city. Not everybody was capable of making the journey on foot.
Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, when asked for comment, said the Phu Kradueng cable car was a matter for brainstorming and joint consideration by all concerned. Careful studies were needed because there were still conflicts of opinion about the project. Many people were still concerned about the environmental impact, he said.
Asked if the project could be implemented by this government, Mr Phumtham said the government was ready to support the project, provided there were no problems. He stressed that careful studies were needed.
Sutham Thammachart, chairman of the shop operators group in Phu Kradueng National Park, said he fully supported the project, which would give a big boost for tourism in the province.