The reconstruction of an old viewing platform at a scenic spot in central China's Hunan Province has been halted because of a lack of environmental impact assessment.
The Hexi Platform, built on Yuelu Mountain in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is one of the most famous scenic areas in the province.
Protesters complain that too many trees will have to be cut down to make way for the enlarged platform, near the provincial capital Changsha.
Others argue the beauty of the original platform will be spoiled by the reconstruction work.
Situated in the west bank of the Xiangjiang River, the mountain is densely covered with old trees, of which there are about 977 species, some of them rare.
Yuelu Mountain authority told the local Sanxiang City Express that 157 trees would have to be cut down to make enough room for the construction, which will cover 2.6 hectares.
The project is expected to cost 148 million yuan (US$18.5 million).
"Details of the tree felling are under investigation," said a woman from Changsha Environmental Protection Bureau.
"Before the results are released, the project has to carry out an environmental impact assessment, which was not done before work started."
She did not confirm how many trees would be cut down and declined to give further information about the project's negative influence on the environment.
Many local celebrities have expressed their concern that such a huge building would have a negative impact on the mountain.
The construction will remove large tracts of forest on Yuelu Mountain, which provides the city with fresh air and serves as its lungs, said Ruan Guoxin, a professor at the Architecture Institute at Hunan University.
Liang Xiaojin, a well-known cultural and historical expert, said, from the viewpoint of culture and history, the new platform, no matter how big it is, could not be as valuable as the original one.
The reconstruction of Hexi Platform has been billed as a key local projects and was expected to be finished by the end of next year.
Yuelu Mountain is most famous for the Yuelu Shuyuan, an academy that was established in 976 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The academy became Hunan University in 1925.
(China Daily September 1, 2006)