SHOULD the Container Terminal 9 (CT9) project ever go ahead, the one body with the influence to demand better has apparently resigned itself to allowing construction to proceed without adequate attention paid to the environment. The Environmental Pollution Advisory Committee (Epcom) has come under attack for giving a cautious green light to a project to remove 15 million cubic metres of sand from the East Lamma Channel for use in landfills in CT9, despite the potential damage to beaches and the marine environment. The environmental debate is easy enough to settle, admittedly with some delay, by ensuring a new environmental impact report is completed and published before the first dredging work is contracted. The more difficult question is whether there is an alternative, less damaging source of sand. Epcom claims there is none. But the problem may be political rather than practical. The Marine Conservation Society's call for the sand to come from the Pearl River makes environmental and possibly also economic sense. The difficulty - which may have been used to pressure Epcom into coming out in reluctant support of a project over which it continues to have serious environmental doubts - may lie in asking China to supply sand at a time of such political tension with Beijing. Not only has Beijing blocked the CT9 project itself, it may be only too happy to use the sand supply as another political lever on Hongkong.