China's top environment watchdog ordered Thursday that most of a plastic membrane covering the lake bed at Beijing's Old Summer Palace be removed.
Instead of plastic sheeting, natural materials such as clay should be used to help prevent water seeping away and a comprehensive plan for supplying water to the park should be made in line with ecosystem requirements, State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) Vice-Minister Pan Yue said in a statement.
The ruling should put an end to a case that has been rumbling on for months.
Environmentalists have lambasted the Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) Administrative Bureau over the US$3.6 million project, which hit the skids in March when Zhang Zhengchun, from the Life Sciences School of Lanzhou University in Northwest China's Gansu Province, found that sheeting was being put down.
The bureau said the project would stop water leaking from the lake and increase the park's water supply, but Zhang and other environmentalists claimed the membrane could cause serious damage to the environment.
After Zhang's claim was reported, SEPA called for a stop to the project on March 31, saying it had not undergone an environmental impact assessment.
The administration then held a public hearing on the issue on April 13, at which many environmentalists and experts criticized the project, with few speaking in favour of it.
After the hearing, SEPA asked the Yuanmingyuan Administrative Bureau to have an environmental impact assessment conducted on the project.
Environmentalists are now hailing SEPA's latest ruling that the sheeting be removed, with Zhang calling it a "perfect solution".
Speaking Thursday afternoon, director of the Yuanmingyuan Administrative Bureau Li Jingqi said the bureau would study how to implement SEPA's suggestions.
Liao Xiaoyi, president of the Global Village of Beijing, a non-governmental organization, also welcomed SEPA's latest ruling.
Source: China Daily