IF THE Government's pollution watchdog, the Environmental Protection Department, is to be believed, there is little they can do about the dangerously high dust levels outside a leading girls' school in Kowloon. The Education Department, which is supposed to be concerned about the welfare of Hong Kong school children, is even less helpful. They cannot do anything because such hazards fall outside their official remit, we are told. And so the buck is passed from one government department to another, with none prepared to take responsibility for the health of 1,100 pupils at the Diocesan Girls' School. Daily, these youngsters face the danger of breathing in levels of dust particles that exceed the safety standards set by the World Health Organisation. The blase response of both departments is all the more alarming because it has been a week since the results of air pollution tests at the school were published by this newspaper. Until then, students and teachers at the school had become so used to the dust kicked up by traffic and roadworks in the area, they had come to accept it. Only now are they asking questions. Ironically, it has taken a private firm to come forward with a solution by offering to use a chemical wetting agent to try to reduce dust on the roads around the school. It is an offer that should be welcomed. But responsibility for solving the problem should not be left to a private company alone. At the end of the day, it is the Government which should play its part in improving the environment. The Diocesan Girls' School is only one instance where pollution poses a threat. The sight of waterways clogged with filth, the heavily polluted harbour and high noise levels are all too common in Hong Kong. This, we are led to believe, is the inevitable side effect of living in such a bustling and successful city. However, we do not accept this argument. The price of success should not be declining health due to pollution. It is time for Hong Kong to clean up its act. Governor Chris Patten has made a cleaner environment a vital plank of his overall policy. While he has been quick to take the credit for high-profile environmental initiatives which boost his green credentials, he seems rather less interested when it comes to more mundane issues. This is the only conclusion we can draw, given the lack of interest shown by his government departments to the health concerns of the Diocesan Girls' School. That contrast is particularly ironic in the week when legislators will be asked to vote on the introduction of new charges to fund the running costs of Mr Patten's pet project: a multi-billion dollar sewage disposal scheme to clean up the harbour. Few will begrudge paying such charges, especially as they will amount to less than $8 a month for most households. But, equally, many will be disturbed that the Governor's interest in improving the environment seems to be so selective. What the Government should be doing is taking a stronger lead in cleaning up all areas of pollution in Hong Kong, no matter how mundane they may seem. The private sector, too, has a role to play. As the Sunday Morning Post and Caltex Oil-sponsored Green Project Awards demonstrates, local businesses are ready and willing to do their part to help protect and promote a cleaner environment. Education is the key to a thriving environment and the only way to break the vicious circle that has ruined the environment of many other countries and the health of their people. For this to happen, it is essential to educate the public to think in the long term and not the short term. Improving the environment is an ongoing project and one that should be taken seriously by the Government and private sector alike if Hong Kong is to be a cleaner and healthier place to live in for future generations.