AFTER years of competing for funds and the public's attention, the four main green groups are taking tentative steps towards joining forces, at least on major issues. The Green Groups United Front - comprising the Conservancy Association, Friends of the Earth, Green Power and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - will be launched this week in honour of Earth Day on Thursday. The move marks a crossroads both in terms of the Government's environment policy and the local green movement. The Government's policy review, due to end in June, is expected to yield new conservation initiatives, which until a couple of years ago were considered fringe. After years of lobbying on these issues, the groups are on the verge of seeing their efforts bear fruit. This success, however, poses the question of what direction they should take next. Excluding the WWF, which has overseas support, the other groups were, until recently, tangled up with financial and leadership difficulties. They had not helped each other by staging fund-raising and other similar activities on the same day. All parties admit the need for better co-ordination. ''We've been thinking about this [joining forces] for a long time,'' said Green Power spokesman, Dr Simon Chau Sui-cheong. ''I suppose there were some character clashes. People didn't see eye to eye or they were too busy and, structurally, their organisations weren't stabilised. But now each group is on the right track.'' Friends of the Earth's director, Mrs Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei, said it had been competing for funds and the attentions of the media, Government and public. She hopes all organisations working together can strengthen each group's impact. The green groups have previously joined forces on an ad hoc basis to fight the Shalotung golf course proposal, a China Light and Power plan to build a power station at Fan Lau on Lantau Island, and to organise activities for Earth Day in 1990. ''I think we are beginning to get more in touch with each other,'' said Ms Ng. ''Since I'm a Chinese-speaking person, we can have easier communication.'' Ms Ng's predecessors spoke only English. Ironically, if the Government shows in its policy review that it has listened to what green campaigners have been saying and adopts many of their proposals, it could knock some of the wind out of their sails. Instead of making their mark by lambasting the lack of official action, they will have to look at other means of calling attention to the environmental cause. The groups have already taken steps towards this. The WWF has been operating in China for a long time, sponsoring projects there to help protect wildlife. Recently, Friends of the Earth has taken education projects and exchanges into Guangdong, Green Power has made contact with top mainland environment officials, and the Conservancy Association has moved to strengthen ties with green groups in Southeast Asia. CHINESE dissident Dai Qing has been honoured in the run-up to Earth Day for her opposition to the proposed Three Gorges dam. The annual Goldman Environmental Awards, which are being announced today, honour grassroots environmentalists from six continents - Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, South America and Australia. Ms Dai is Asia's winner and was cited for her work in compiling Yangtze! Yangtze!, a collection of essays by prominent Chinese scholars who are critical of the dam. She also lobbied, at risk to herself, against the project. If you have an environmental project of interest or wish to call to attention to an environmental problem in your neighbourhood, please fax the information to Ecowatch on 811-1278, or post it to the South China Morning Post.