Robert J.S. Law has one of Hong Kong's most thankless jobs. As director of the Environmental Protection Dept., he is in charge of convincing industrialists and bureaucrats they must pay the price of protecting the environment. "Environmental regulators never please everyone, since we're not driven by emotion, like green groups, and we're not driven by profits," he says. "So today I'm a hero; tomorrow I'm a villain."
Law, 52, is making progress where many have failed before. Last October, he vetoed a plan by the government-owned Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. to build a new line because it would have done irreparable damage to one of Hong Kong's last wildlife preserves. It was the first infrastructure project to be halted for environmental reasons. Another victory was getting taxis to switch from diesel-burning engines to those that burn more environmentally-friendly liquefied petroleum gas.
Next on the agenda: curbing air pollution that drifts in from the mainland, and improving solid-waste disposal and sewage treatment. With so much left to do, Law will be playing both hero and villain for some time to come.