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Shennongjia airport opens despite environmental issues   

神农架建机场削5个山峰填数百溶洞 环评报告无踪

2014-05-09 13:42 Ecns.cn Web Editor: Qian Ruisha
This photo taken last year shows the airport under construction. (Photo: Shanghai Morning Post)

This photo taken last year shows the airport under construction. (Photo: Shanghai Morning Post)

(ECNS) – As of Thursday, it only takes a four-hour flight to get from Shanghai to the Shennongjia Forest Reserve, despite controversy surrounding the construction of the airport there.

Since April 2013, large areas of forest were cut down and several mountains flattened to make way for the airport's 1.7 mile runway.

Located in the western part of Hubei province in central China, Shennongjia is a tourist destination renowned for natural reserves and forest parks. It receives over 5 million visits each year.

Media coverage by the Wuhan Evening News last year revealed that five mountains were flattened and hundreds of karst caves filled up for the airport's construction. More than 7 million pounds of explosives were used to blow up the mountains.

The question is, how did a project with such massive environmental damage get the green light?

All projects must pass an assessment by the Environmental Protection Department before getting started, said former department chief Qu Geping.

The local government claims the airport project was endorsed by the Environmental Department, but an official assessment is nowhere to be found.

Some insiders say that no assessment was ever conducted. The plan was to build the airport first and then do the assessment, or simply pay a penalty.

Experts say risks of soil and water loss could be serious if no action is taken.

Last summer, a villager's house was buried in a mudslide that was said to be a consequence of the construction.

In addition, over 70 varieties of rare animals have been forced to alter their migration routes, or leave the area.

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