CHINA / National

Filmmaker destroys pristine Shangrila
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-05-11 05:44

Director Chen Kaige's blockbuster film "The Promise" has certainly grabbed headlines.

First, it was the most expensive domestic film made. with an investment of 340 million yuan (US$42.5 million).

A concrete structure on the shore of Bigu Tianchi lake. [China Daily]

Then it was the subject of a popular parody.

Now it's about how the movie company treated the environment at a location where it built a set and filmed.

"The shooting of 'The Promise' has destroyed the natural sights of Bigu Tianchi in Yunnan Province's Shangrila," Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, said on Tuesday at a forum in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.

A reinforced concrete structure was left on the shore of the lake, and more than 100 spiles were left in the water, said Qiu, citing media reports. Moreover, canteens, raincoats, bottles and plastic bags could be seen all around.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the nation's top watchdog, has instructed the provincial environmental protection bureau to investigate the issue, Zhu Xingxiang, a SEPA official, said yesterday.

He said that SEPA had not received a letter of complaint about the movie company's environmental destruction.

The location involved is at Bigu Tianchi, a mountainous lake at an altitude of 4,000 metres in picturesque Shangrila County.

Some reports indicated the ecosystem around the lake had also been destroyed. A China Central Television report dealt with both sides of that issue late last month.

Qiu's remark was the first official criticism regarding the deterioration of the lake's environment.

Chen Hong, the movie's producer and Chen Kaige's wife, told People's Daily that materials had been left behind for auction to help pay for the clean-up. However, the Chongqing Commercial News reported Chen as saying that the company had given money to the local government to deal with the aftermath.

No confirmation of any money given to a local government could be made yesterday, but Li Jufang, an official of the Diqing Tibet Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, said clean-up work had begun.

The concrete structure on the lakeshore has been mostly dismantled, said Li, who insisted that the work affected the surrounding environment only slightly.

Last August, the movie company sent a letter entrusting disposal of the material left on site to the prefecture government, Li said.

The prefecture government then told the Shangrila county government to auction the materials left behind to help pay for the clean-up, the official said.

"A lesson learnt from the issue is that we will demand that whoever shoots a movie here in the future is committed to protecting the environment," Li said.

An online survey by the website indicated that 95 per cent of the respondents thought the shooting of the movie destroyed the environment and more than 80 per cent suggested that authorities adopt regulations to avoid a repetition of similar accidents.

Lu Xinyuan, another SEPA official, said such regulations would be drafted in the future. Further spot investigations need to be conducted on whether to ban or to restrict the shooting of movies at sites with beautiful scenery in the future.

(China Daily 05/11/2006 page1)