We may have to change the name of this column. The way things are going, Tolo Harbour may not exist much longer. The sprawling bay is being eaten away by reclamation. Filling in the scenic harbour is not as advanced as the concreting of Sha Tin Bay, which branches off the main Tolo Harbour. That bay has been tamed and subjugated. Once invariably troublesome and prone to flooding when the area was farmland, the Shing Mun River now runs like a well-behaved schoolboy between disciplined concrete levees. On the south bank, as Sha Tin Bay opens into Tolo Harbour, green spires of Ma On Shan housing estates rise on wide reclamations already completed. Over on the other side of the bay, near where the Tolo Highway sweeps around Chinese University and heads north towards Tai Po, another big reclamation is under way which will again significantly change the portrait of the shoreline. Once again, it is a worthy scheme, although such a generous surfeit of well-intentioned developments may spell the end of Tolo Harbour. A wide swathe is to be reclaimed from the water, 53 hectares in total. Three hectares of this will be used for the Science Park, where new hi-tech industries will hopefully be spawned, and another 15.6 hectares are earmarked for housing. Already, the Chinese University's Marine Science Laboratory and the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology have been built on reclamations there. More are to come. Work seems to be proceeding at a desultory rate. I climbed down the rocks from the bicycle track last week to have a look and, apart from myself and a half-dozen disconsolate herons poking about in what were once their fishing grounds, the landfill was idle. As the shoreline constantly encroaches on the water, so does the skyline change. Along the foothills of the Pat Sin ranges march new blocks of housing and educational facilities. Over the water, these stare at expensive high-rise apartment blocks going up on ridges above the Kowloon Canton Railway line. The waters of Tolo Harbour, constantly narrowing, glisten in the middle. A quarter century ago, you could sail a yacht right up to the old houses in the village of Fo Tan Yuek in Sha Tin. The name means Charcoal Burners' Village, and well into the 1970s there were still followers of that gritty trade making fuel for the Tanka fisherfolk whose anchorages were in the area. It seems inconceivable that so recently much of the fish in our markets was netted by slow-moving, awkward sailing junks, and the only means of cooking on their long cruises at sea were clay pots fired with charcoal. Well, villages like Tai Wai are now kilometres inland at the head of Sha Tin Valley, and Tai Po itself has been separated from the waters of Tolo Harbour by wide bands of highways, parks, new housing and other reclamation. I cannot remember when I last saw a working junk in Hong Kong waters - at least 15 years ago and probably more. It was the development of the New Towns that started the process which has seen the gradual disappearance of the bays. In the city, there is a vociferous Save the Harbour group fighting to preserve further encroachment on the Fragrant Harbour. No such activists hold up banners and shout as landfill trucks by the hundreds dump their loads on the extensive reclamation along Ting Kok Road. Obviously, if there were going to be a lot more people in Tai Po, there had to be more housing. So old slums and tenements were cleared and high-rise Home Ownership towers went up on reclaimed land. New flyovers and highways heading for the border claimed another 90-metre-wide strip of land all the way up the western shore, significantly narrowing the bay. Meanwhile, on the opposite shore, a couple of handy mountains were being torn down and dumped in the shallows: the Tai Po Industrial Estate was being formed. In 1974, when the Government fingered the district as a site to attract light industry, there was no flat land available. But that was no problem in that era of can-do development. Governor Sir Murray MacLehose ordained and it was done: 76 hectares were created out of the shallows, which now house 80 factories employing about 16,000 workers. This was the time when the Government's dreams were for the New Towns to be self-contained, with housing, schools, jobs, shopping, entertainment and all the basic necessities of life being found locally. About the only place this has happened to any significant extent is in Tai Po. As the New Town programme was just gathering steam, Deng Xiaoping in 1978 threw open the economic doors of China and most of our industry galloped across the Shenzhen River. Just south of the industrial estate, a mountain based on garbage is rising from the waters. We have to dump our rubbish somewhere, and if you have to have rubbish dumps, they do not come much cleaner than this. A ceaseless stream of trucks dump under strict supervision. The rubbish is then compacted and covered with earth. This has eaten into scores of hectares of once-pristine harbour. So have public parks and promenades, pleasant escapes for the growing population to stroll and exercise. At low tide, the stench that sometimes comes from the exposed mud, rich with deposits from farms, squatters and industrial run-off, detracts from the attraction. There is a crushing social imperative for new land. Few can argue with the results, even though we may not like the changes. But I hope when the planners are finished, there will still be sufficient water left for Tolo Harbour to keep its name.