MAKING the polluter pay will become the underlying strategy of environmental protection in Hongkong, a senior government official predicted yesterday. Sewage charges are already in the pipeline and likely to be introduced next year, while charges for disposing of chemical and construction waste are being studied, according to the Director of Environmental Protection, Dr Stuart Reed. ''The Government is very much of the view that 'polluter pays' is the way to go,'' he said. ''This is partly because it's reasonable that people who use a service should pay for it, and because if people have to pay, they start to adjust the way they do things and generate less waste.'' But he said officials would proceed cautiously so as not to encourage polluters to dump waste illegally to avoid charges. He also said the Government was a major polluter and would need to continue providing input into environmental services. Dr Reed was speaking during a review of the Environmental Protection Department's (EPD) work in 1992. He stressed positive accomplishments such as tougher water and air controls, the completion of a new chemical waste treatment plant, and the vetting of environmental assessments to be included in all papers to the Executive Council and Public Works Sub-committee. But not all EPD recommendations had been heeded, particularly at Stonecutters Islandwhere it advised reclamation work be delayed a few weeks until sewage works were completed. It was ignored and thousands of fish died. Dr Reed said overall, the attitude towards environmental impact was improving because legislators and the community were pressuring those who caused problems. ''Rather than the EPD having lots of teeth, a change in community attitudes towards environmental protection is the best safeguard we have for the future and I think it is happening,'' he said. Looking ahead, Dr Reed said the EPD would extend water pollution laws in June to the edges of Victoria Harbour, comprising the area between Tsing Yi and Lantau Islands and between Chai Wan and Shek O, as well as start preparations to apply the laws in Victoria Harbour proper. Another 128 posts will be created in the next financial year after concern the EPD might not get the staff promised. The Finance Branch promised the EPD 128 new posts each year for four years, starting in 1991, but each time there has been a wrangle over whether it will get the numbers.