Filming of movies and television programs will not be allowed at scenic spots in China without prior approval, the Ministry of Construction said on Friday.
The restriction also applies to live commercial performances.
The ministry asked local construction authorities at the provincial level to investigate a series of incidents in which movie companies reportedly caused damage in scenic spots while filming.
Those responsible for any damage may receive fines and legal punishment. They will also have to restore the damaged environment to its original state.
The ministry asked governments at all levels to take concrete measures to protect scenic sites of cultural and historical value.
When movies or television programs are to be filmed in such areas, producers must seek environmental impact assessments from construction departments at the provincial level, and final approval must be given from the ministry.
Early this week, Vice-Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing criticized the crew that filmed "The Promise" for damaging the pristine environment at Bigu Tianchi in Shangri-la County, southwest China's Yunnan Province.
A reinforced concrete structure was left on the lake's shore, and more than 100 wooden posts were left in the water, Qiu said.
The Beijing News reported on Friday that the crew of "The Promise" also damaged about 60 trees in the Yuanmingyuan Garden (Old Summer Palace) during the shooting of an autumn scene.
They painted the trees yellow all of them over 10 meters high at the end of 2004, and many have since withered.
But management staff of the garden said they knew nothing about how the damage was caused, and the producer of the film could not be contacted, according to the newspaper.
Li Aiming, an official of the Diqing Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, where Bigu Tianchi is located, told China Daily on Friday that all the structures and materials left by the crew had been dismantled and cleared.
"Environmental experts have reached the site to assess the impact," Li said.
The ministry told the Yunnan provincial bureau of construction to dispatch investigators to deal with the issue, ministry official Wang Fengwu said on Thursday.
The filmmakers behind "The Promise" said that they were not to blame for any environmental damage because they paid the local government to clean up after the shoot.
Jiang Xiaoyu, a China Central Television movie channel commentator, told China Daily: "Whatever can be said in defense of the filmmakers, I think they do bear the responsibility for the mess they left behind.
"Even though they said they had spoken to local authorities about the matter, it remains to be explained what on earth they spoke about in the first place. They should at least see to it that the site is indeed cleaned up."
Artists and critics in Beijing also said that authorities should legislate on the filming at scenic spots.
Environmental activists welcomed the publicity of the event and its significance, according to Wang Ping, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the national political advisory body.
"The environmental impact of cultural and entertainment industries has long been an area covered by no laws and no regulations," said Wang, a professor of environmental engineering at Beijing University of Industry and Commerce.
"Although they are mostly temporary projects, whether shooting a movie or having a festival celebration, they tend to subject the environment to risks," she said. "Sometimes the pollution of a temporary project can remain forever."
(China Daily May 13, 2006)