THE POWERFUL TSUNAMI that struck many parts of Asia on December 26 last year provided a dramatic wake-up call in the region and focused many people's thoughts on the fragility of human life and the environment. It also acted as a reminder about the diverse responsibilities of the many professionals whose work involves monitoring and protecting the environment. Already concerned about Hong Kong's pollution problems, the government has been pouring millions of dollars into research and schemes to slow the degradation of the environment. The Environmental and Conservation Fund has approved more than $15 million in grants for local education, research and technology projects. Moreover, companies and community groups have been stepping up investment in protecting the environment and taking part in related causes. Bill Kentrup, director of Noble Environmental Solutions, an arm of the Hong Kong-based Noble Group, which trades commodities worldwide, believes the rise of Asia as an economic and manufacturing power will continue to create environmental problems, but also present the opportunity to play a key role in finding solutions. A marine biologist by training, Mr Kentrup said the requirement for Hong Kong companies to comply with environmental laws and regulations would bring new employment opportunities for environmental scientists. Their skills were needed to establish standards and monitor waste discharge, landfill requirements, groundwater contamination and flood control. He said the government, institutions and business organisations now increasingly acknowledged environmental issues, but were showing varying levels of ambition and decisiveness when taking action. Andrew Thomson, chief executive of the Business Environment Council, said increased awareness and better understanding of how businesses could operate more efficiently and with lower costs was leading to new jobs. 'Venture capital is starting to flow again, creating opportunities for those interested in the environment,' he said, adding that businesses were recruiting environmental professionals as full-time employees and consultants.