Tsinghua University has been selected to conduct an environmental impact assessment of a controversial restoration project at Beijing's Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan. The State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) said last week it would give the park's managers a 40-day deadline to submit an environmental impact report on the project, after the park failed to find a qualified party to conduct the assessment. Media reports claimed that park managers had experienced difficulty finding an agency to assess the project - which was halted by Sepa in March - due to its sensitivity. Controversy over the project centres on plans to line a 1.5 sq km lake with plastic sheeting to prevent water from seeping away, and to allow a paddle boat business to operate. Pan Yue, the outspoken vice-director of Sepa, said yesterday: 'Tsinghua University has set up an expert group and will submit the environmental impact assessment on the project within the required period.' Mr Pan praised the university and Beijing Normal University (BNU), which has reportedly agreed to assist in the assessment, the China News Service reported. He criticised the BNU last week for refusing to take full responsibility for the assessment, but the reports said the university had apologised to Sepa and expressed its willingness to co-operate with Tsinghua. Confirming the report, an official from the BNU's School of Environment said it was not immediately clear how the two universities would co-operate.