China will step up protection of its state-level nature reserves to crack down on activities such as film shooting and unauthorized tourism, according to a new regulation.
"The maintenance and management of state-level nature reserves should be evaluated by a State Council-authorized committee at least every five years," the China Youth Daily quoted the regulation as saying. It will come into effect on Dec. 1.
"If dereliction of duty, unapproved changes of the reserve area or unauthorized tourism are found at state-level natural reserves, the reserves will be officially warned or even revoked of their state-level status and related officials will be punished," said Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
"If the reserves lose their state-level status, they can not apply for it again for five years," said Zhou.
The regulation also said that environmental protection departments should carry out regular inspections of natural reserves to ensure deforestation, hunting, fishing, mining or filmmaking, which are damaging the reserves, do not occur.
Ding Hushan nature reserve in south China's Guangdong Province, established in 1956, was China's first nature reserve. China now has 2,349 natural reserves, covering about 1.5 million square kilometers or 15 percent of China's land area, above the world average.
However, Zhou said, some local governments waiver nature reserve protection in favor of economic development.
The exploitation of nature reserves has been widely publicized. Director Chen Kaige's film "The Promise" was accused of littering and destroying vegetation at a scenic nature reserve in Shangri-la of southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2004.
A provincial regulation imposed a fine of 90,000 yuan (US$11,250) on the film production team. A local official was also fired for neglect of duty.
Experts criticized the local government for being too tolerant as the fine was only a small proportion of the film's total investment.
(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2006)