End of the 1950s to the early 1960s, the Hong Kong Government started a major reclamation project in Kwun Tong which is located in the south-east of the Kowloon Peninsula, opposite to the extended Kai Tak Runway. The main reasons for the development were the need for new industrial sites as well as massive creation of living space (NEW TOWN concept).
Further down south-east, next to Lei Yue Mun, is Yau Tong Bay, also named Kwun Tong Tsai Wan. It was long considered a remote and sparsely populated area. In fact it was up to the early 1950s.
The photo from 1956 (possibly taken a year or two later) shows the bay which looks pretty untouched.
Reclamation (c. 1958-c.1963)
In 1958, the Public Works Department published a map which shows the area intended to be reclaimed in Yau Tong Bay. The rough outline of the coast would be smoothed and straightened, this new land was provided for shipbuilding and sawmills. The reclaimed land was divided into lots: Kwun Tong Marine Lots (K.T.M.L.)
Going back to the 1956 photo, reclamation works had started already on the north-western part (left side on the photo) of the bay.
An aerial photograph from 1961 shows Kwun Tong reclamation almost finished and Yau Tong Bay reclamation under way on the eastern shore.
Within the next years, the reclamation proceeded and was almost completed by the end of 1962 as seen in this aerial photo from January 1963. At the south-eastern side of the bay, ship building activities had started already.
The filling material for the reclamation came from the surrounding hills at the bay, thus creating areas for housing estates. This is the other aspect of Yau Tong development: the construction of resettlement estates. The first one was Yau Tong (Resettlement) Estate which comprised of 26 blocks built in 1964, 1965 and 1971 respectively.
The next was Ko Chiu Road Estate. It consisted of 11 blocks, built between 1971 and 1973.
Industrial activities on reclaimed land
The eastern side of the reclaimed area was occupied by sawmills like the Bonanza saw-mill.
Below is a photo from 1966 showing timber rafts on the water in front of the sawmills, Yau Tong Estate is in the upper part of the photo.
The marine lots on the northern and south-eastern side of the bay were occupied by companies for building and repairing ships. On the northern side (only naming a few) Goltens Ship Repair and the Chung Wah Shipbuilding & Engineering Co) were active, see the photo below from the 1970s.
On the south-eastern side were the Universal Dockyard Ltd and the Yau Wing Shipyard.
The situation in 1985 is shown on the aerial photograph below, it is more or less unchanged to 1966 regarding industry. The 1970s and 1980s were probably the most prosperous decades. Shipbuilding activities as well as timber rafts in front of the sawmills can be seen.
In 1992, almost all activities of sawmills and shipbuilding continued as can be seen on the aerial photograph.
On the right hand side, Yau Tong Estate can be seen, and on the upper part of the photo is the entrance to the Eastern Harbour Crossing.
Proposed second reclamation and restructuring
Starting in 1989, the Hong Kong Government proposed to further reclaim Yau Tong Bay and get rid of the factories that caused heavy pollution of the bay. The plans to restructure Yau Tong Bay continued in the 1990s, a total of 22-hectare residential and commercial area would be developed, including 12.5 hectares of land that would be reclaimed from the sea. A map from about 1998 shows the extent of the proposed reclamation.
During the 1990s up to 2000, only slow progress could be observed because some companies refused to sell their property. Therefore these small to medium size companies continued working until the end-1990s, some still after 2010. The sawmills closed around the year 2000.
However, due to strong protests from the public which was against any further reclamation of Victoria Harbour, the reclamation plan was dropped.
Construction of MTR lines and Yau Tong Station
Away from the shoreline, major developments occurred inland. One of the big changes was the construction of the MTR Yau Tong Station which serves the Kwun Tong line and the Tseung Kwan O line; the station opened in 2002. For that, the Yau Tong Estate had to be demolished in the late 1990s. It was partly rebuilt on a smaller area compared to the 1960s.
Restructuring the industrial area (on Y.T.M.L.'s)
Plans to convert the former industrial area on the marine lots into housing estates still exist, but up to date the progress is very slow. The whole area is fenced off, nearly all buildings have been demolished, and grass is growing on the marine lots; see the aerial photo from 2017.
Another five years later, the situation is still unchanged and no sign of progress. See the photo from September 2022.
Many projects are announced but not commenced. And who knows, sometime it may look this or this.