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Non-leaky lake could spell ecological ruin
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-07 06:35

A plan to line the Old Summer Palace's lake with plastic could spark an ecological disaster, environmentalists have claimed.

A public hearing on the controversial project, intended to cut down on water leakage from the lake at the Yuanmingyuan park (the old Summer Palace), will be held next Wednesday.

Yesterday, Vice-Minister of the State Environmental Pro-tection Administration Pan Yue said opinions from experts, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and the general public, as well as relevant departments, on the environmental impact of the project would be solicited for the hearing.

Last Thursday, the administration said the project should be stopped because it had not undergone an environmental impact assessment, which is required by law.

"The project is a typically illegal one that went ahead before assessment," Pan said.

The project, which has already been suspended after being slammed by experts and environmental authorities, aims to cover the park's lake bed with impermeable membrane so that water will not seep away into the ground.

But critics say the move could be an ecological disaster because it cuts the link between lake water and underground water.

They say the membrane will damage the underground water supplies in the Haidian District, where the park is located, and could affect Beijing as a whole.

But park authorities argue the project is a solution to their own water shortage.

And Tang Li, with the park management office, told China Daily yesterday that they had already discussed the project with experts before work began, who said there would be no ecological impact.

Tang confirmed the project was stopped last Friday, but said the 2,000 mu (133 hectares) lake bed has already been almost completely covered.

According to Pan, the public hearing will be open to any individual or organization that is interested in the issue.

Sources with the administration said the results of the hearing would be announced next Friday.

If the project is found to be an environmental threat, all the plastic which has already been laid will have to be removed.

(China Daily 04/07/2005 page2)

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