Chinese authorities have fined producers of the epic film The Promise by Oscar-nominated director Chen Kaige for damaging a pristine Himalayan lake during shooting, State press said.
The producers were fined 90,000 yuan (US$11,250) for destroying vegetation near Bigu Lake in Shangri-La County in Yunnan Province, Xinhua said.
The fantasy romance epic cost US$35 million and is the country's most expensive movie production to date.
A deputy county magistrate was also fired for his involvement in the production, Xinhua cited anonymous sources with the Ministry of Construction as saying.
The ministry, which conducted an investigation, said the film crew had also littered the nature reserve known as Blue Sky Pond during production in 2004 and failed to clean up.
They were also accused of cutting a swath through a field of azalea bushes to make way for an unpaved road and of leaving behind several structures, including a 13-meter-high steel-framed house.
The house and road damaged the ecology and scarred Blue Sky Pond, the ministry said.
The temporary structures have now been removed and the garbage cleared, while the area around the pond is being restored, Xinhua said.
Following the case, the government tightened controls over film shooting and live performances in scenic areas, requiring filmmakers and event organizers to submit detailed plans on how they will protect the environment.
Chen's wife, Chen Hong, reportedly conceded there were environmental problems but said a large amount of money had been given to the local government to clean up the film set and the garbage.
"Both Kaige and I are hurt by this," a Web site run by the Yunnan provincial government quoted her as saying.
Chinese film authorities had entered the film for "best foreign picture" at this year's Academy Awards, but the epic failed to get a nomination from the Oscar committee.
Chen was nominated for an Oscar for his 1993 hit Farewell My Concubine.
(Shenzhen Daily August 14, 2006)