FUNDING is not a new problem for green groups, but competition for money is coming from a source originally set up to help them, the Government-appointed Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC). The ECC began in 1990 and was supposed to promote awareness and help the groups find funds, but now most of its considerable sponsorship goes towards its own activities. Friends of the Earth's founder, Ms Linda Siddall, resigned from the ECC in part over the issue and the group's new director, Mrs Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei, is also finding it frustrating. ''It seems that the ECC has become the superpower now, it's drawn most of the sponsors,'' she said. The committee will spend close to $1 million on activities for World Environment Day on June 5 whose theme is saving energy - a small fortune to green groups. ''I don't want to sound all sour grapes, but I wish that money could be given to the green groups. We're in a collective struggle for survival,'' Mrs Ng said. The ECC's secretary, Mr Edward Lam Wah-king, said his job was to encourage companies to set up green funds to help community and green groups, not just the ECC, but the green groups did not always help themselves. Some groups refused to accept donations from firms whose practices they opposed, such as infant-formula producers whose commercial promotions had been criticised by the World Health Organisation, or else their events were poorly-organisedwhich turned offsponsors, he said. ''I see the concern that the money is going to the ECC and what about the green groups. Well, they should try harder,'' Mr Lam said. ''There is actually ample money around in Hongkong for green activities. We haven't exhausted all the sponsors.'' But the green groups have not found the abundance of donors that Mr Lam described. Mrs Ng reckons she spends at least 40 per cent of her time looking for funds and, although she agrees with Mr Lam that the green groups have to work harder, she points out they don't have the machinery and publicity behind them. ''Some companies have a really good environment programme, but some ask what are the publicity opportunities, what VIPs will be there and so on,'' she said. ''Of course we agree that if they pay so much money, they want so much back, but there are also other aspects we would like them to look at over the long term.'' The Conservancy Association's spokesman, Mr Gordon Ng Ting-leung, believes companies are reluctant to give directly to the green groups because they speak out on Government policy. The ECC, on the other hand, was a quasi-government organisation with offices and support in the Environmental Protection Department, he said. Indeed, Mr Lam is an EPD staffer and ECC work is included in the EPD's annual report. ''The ECC won't be in conflict with the Government. Corporate members do not want to get involved in this sort of thing,'' Mr Ng said. Any donations from the ECC are usually for participation in ECC activities and, in the meantime, the green groups have to compete for funding for their own programmes. Friends of the Earth, for instance, is seeking more funds for a student exchange between Hongkong and Guangzhou, called Project Green Hope. About 50 Hongkong students have already met senior Hongkong and Guangzhou environment officials and will travel to Guangzhou this summer. But plans to bring Guangzhou students to Hongkong are on hold because of the lack of funds. Only two donations worth $100,000 in total have been received and another $50,000 is needed to cover the expenses of the Guangzhou students in Hongkong. Even if that money is received, it will not be enough to extend the programme beyond this year - frustrating the group's aim to foster long-term contact between Hongkong and Guangzhou students, teach them about environmental issues, and give them confidence in expressing their views to government officials, businessmen and others. ''We need new blood for our environment movement and if we don't facilitate these kinds of links, then we won't have a chance,'' Mrs Ng said. A KAYAK crossing from Macau to Hongkong will be attempted this weekend, with the funds raised going to the World Wide Fund for Nature's Healthy Oceans Campaign. Mr Paul Brunner hopes to be the first to complete the 55-hour, 80-kilometre crossing successfully. Previous paddlers attempted the journey going in the opposite direction, but the tides worked against them. Mr Brunner hopes by reversing the route he will be able to use the tides to his advantage. The Healthy Oceans Campaign is a project to teach children about Hongkong's marine habitat and it aims to raise $50,000 to $100,000 from individual and corporate sponsors. Action Asia magazine is organising the event. If you have an environmental project of interest or wish to call attention to an environmental problem in your neighbourhood, please fax the information to Ecowatch on 811-1278, or mail it to the South China Morning Post, PO Box 47.