LEGISLATION will be a prime area of discussion at this week's World Congress on the Environment. Hong Kong University law lecturer Professor Yash Ghai, who will speak on the development of legislation, said there were better ways to punish polluters. 'The law on the environment is quite extensive now - there's been an enormous increase in the last 10 to 20 years in relation to development and the environment,' he said. 'It is possible to regulate the activities of developers and individuals by sanctions or incentives - you can reward people for good behaviour or punish people for bad behaviour. 'But what is really important is dialogue between the groups concerned - just punishing them does not really help.' Law enforcers often understood little about the industry or production systems that caused pollution and were unable to negotiate with polluters to seek new solutions. 'Imposing fines does not really help unless they are punitive,' Professor Ghai said. 'In Hong Kong, the fines are low. A lot of firms tend to just pay the fine and carry on polluting.' Instead of parcelling out responsibility to individuals or companies, whole sections of society should become involved. 'Another way would be to set up an institution to consult with different groups - consumers, factory operators and producers of machinery - to create a forum of understanding,' Professor Ghai said. 'That is not new, it is a system that is being used in many areas but not in pollution control. This can be set up through legislation. 'There would also be a notice that if the polluters did not improve their practices, then penalties could be brought on them, and other forms of pressure as well.' Intense public and private sector anti-pollution efforts have led to a boom in environmental law. 'It is a growing area of practice; you can make money out of it,' Professor Ghai said. 'There is a lot of advising to governments to set up structures, but also in advising companies how to comply with regulations.' Speakers on legislation to govern development include Chinese Ministry of Construction consultant Zhou Ganzi and University of London law lecturer Professor Patrick McAuslan. White House representative Molly Olson, who is executive director of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, is also among the speakers.