RECENT governors have made much of the need to educate the public about the environment. But as the public and much of the business community has begun to take the message on board, the Government's planning machinery has lagged behind. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growing opposition to reclamation plans for Victoria Harbour. Not only environmental groups are concerned. The Democratic Party has recognised it as a theme with populist potential. The business community is increasingly concerned at the rapid devaluation of Hong Kong's greatest asset. So, too, is the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC). It fears reclamations might endanger marine safety, damage the environment and undermine the territory's attraction as a tourist destination. In the Government's present mood, PWC involvement may prove counter-productive. If so, that would be political silliness. A re-examination of the harbour reclamation policy is overdue. Two questions must be asked before further reclamations go ahead. Is there the provision of so much new land economically justified? If so, is the harbour the right place? The arguments require new analysis. They should not rely solely on the views of property developers. When a tycoon like Li Ka-shing warns the creation of 100 million square feet of land for new office space will saturate the market, the public has a right to ask if falling office prices would be as bad for the economy as a whole as they would be for developers. But with airport-related height restrictions soon to disappear from Kowloon, a potential development bonanza on the existing airport site, and new towns soon to be built along the new airport railway, is an all-out drive for additional reclamation justified? A balanced debate must take the public's environmental concerns into account. However, the alternatives to reclamation may be equally unpopular. Preserving the harbour will not be without environmental and social costs elsewhere. Encroachment on the country parks near to existing developed areas, redevelopment of residential areas for office space and the relocation of residential districts to outlying areas would be difficult to sell. Expansion in the New Territories and development of North Lantau could further threaten unspoiled countryside. A total ban on harbour reclamation may prove, after analysis, not to be most socially and environmentally sound approach. But, equally, there are limits to reclamation and it seems they are being reached in the central harbour areas. At the very least, the breakneck reclamation of Victoria Harbour should be reconsidered.