THE very pace of Hong Kong's development has given rise to environmental concerns. Major public projects, for example, are normally preceded by environmental impact assessments (EIAs). These help planners, and ecologists, to weigh the benefits of any plan to humans against the cost to ecosystems and to individual species. The Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) has upset legislators, as well as environmentalists, by quietly beginning preparatory work for an aviation fuel depot at Sha Chau without waiting for completion of the environmental assessment. The authority may have thought EIA stood for Early International Airport. The alternative - that the PAA is arrogant or insensitive - is too alarming to contemplate. Everyone in Hong Kong recognises the urgency of the airport project. However, EIAs are not appendages that projects pick up, like a label suggesting a deodorant is environmentally friendly. They should form an integral part of the planning process. If the study of Sha Chau suggests a threat to dolphins, the community may decide that dolphins are better off in Ocean Park. However, that is a decision for the community to take, not for the PAA to anticipate.