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Urban River Revitalisation – Yuen Long Town Nullah Improvement Works

what we do
Forge Unusual Connections / Engage Citizens

Community Design Lab @ Yuen Long

Project Partner: Drainage Services Department

Duration: May 2020 – Present



North-west of Hong Kong, Yuen Long has historically been a flooding-prone area. Over the years, the occurrence of heavy floods has drastically declined due to a range of flood prevention measures in place, such as the concretisation of town nullah and diversion of stormwater, along with the overall town urbanisation.

As the threat of climate change looms large, however, Yuen Long is expected to suffer from increasingly devastating storms in the future; raised sea levels would subject the area to significant risks of heavy flooding, especially in the town centre area. Hence, the Drainage Services Department (DSD) proposes to build a barrage at the lower course to prevent backflow from the Deep Bay and protect the town centre area from flooding. Along with the proposal, this also presents the opportunity to improve and revitalise the nullah environment. Situated at the heart of a crowded town centre, how might such dull infrastructure be transformed into a space that satisfies the needs of community members and improves the public life? And with the complex dynamics in Yuen Long involved, this project seeks to bring together different stakeholders to reimagine this space for a better quality of living in the suburban town.


Our Approach

Conspicuous and spanning a large part of Yuen Long, members of the community are used to the nullah presence and acknowledge its drainage function, especially during the rainy season. Through our Design Thinking study, we first sought to understand Yuen Long town’s evolution over the years, community members’ everyday life, as well as their interaction with the town nullah. The process allowed us to have a better grasp of stakeholders’ pain points and wishes around the drainage facility, but at the same time inspired fresh imagination of a rejuvenated space for the community.

We centred our co-creation activities around collective placemaking, guiding stakeholders especially local residents to not just think about the nullah’s environment, but view the future revitalised channel as a new public space. Because of COVID, we adopted a hybrid model for our co-creation workshops. In both online and physical workshops, local residents got to join other community members to brainstorm how the nullah can be redesigned to fulfill community needs without compromising its existing functions. Such consensus-building process in turn offered stakeholders a realistic platform to shape the infrastructure based on a collective vision. All along the engagement process, we also added a public education dimension to the project by getting the engineers in-charge involved and conveying the value of revitalising urban streams to the wider public. It is our vision that this project inspires the community’s reimagination of the long-established infrastructure and would serve as a model for unconventional community participation in public services.


Impact to Date 

  • Inspired renewed interest and re-imagination of the decades-old infrastructure in Yuen Long
  • Facilitated a consensus-building process among stakeholders to explore new solutions based on a common community vision
  • Provided a platform for in-depth engagement as well as co-creation that contributed to a community-oriented design of the Yuen Long Town Nullah