China has issued a new regulation that bans film shooting in nature reserves, scenic spots and at sites of historical interest across the country, according to state-owned news agency Xinhua.

People who violate the regulation - issued by four government departments including the State Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Culture - will be heavily fined, although the report didn't state how large the fines are likely to be.

However, filmmakers will still be able to shoot in the 'experimental zones' of nature reserves, outer sections of scenic spots and at some cultural heritage sites. China has 2,349 nature reserves, covering about 1.5 million square kilometres, or 15% of China 's land area, according to the Xinhua report.

The new rules also stipulate that filmmakers should seek approval from the relevant authorities before film sets are constructed in these protected areas. They are also required to dismantle the sets and other facilities when shooting has finished and restore each site to its original state.

China is becoming increasingly popular as a location for Asian and international filmmakers due to its wide range of natural scenery and low costs. The country is currently hosting Roger Spottiswoode's The Children Of Huang Shi and big-budget projects including Relativity Media's J&J Project and John Woo's Battle Of Red Cliff are scheduled to start shooting in China later this year.

Although film production is unlikely to ever cause a fraction of the environmental destruction wrought by China 's heavy industries, it's thought that the new regulation comes in response to Chen Kaige's The Promise which was accused of littering and destroying vegetation at a nature reserve in Yunnan Province in 2004.

The producer of the film was fined $11,600 (RMB90,000) and a local official fired for neglect of duty, although the fine was later criticised for being too small.