Viewpoint: Building resilient cities

25 APR,2021 | MEDC


 

  • Covid has wreaked havoc on the socioeconomic fabric of India, and it is the country’s metropolitan areas that have borne the brunt of it. Many believe that cities failed to protect their most vulnerable residents in this extraordinary period, and that, with a different urban design the situation may not have reached this stage. A second wave of Covid is already upon us, and with issues arising in the availability and distribution of vaccines, India’s economic revivalcould be compromised. To enhance the quality of life for every Indian, and to give them access to public services, we need to serve them where they work – which is, increasingly, now in our urban agglomerations. Getting urbanization right will also help address the growing risks arising from global warming and climate change, which are now at the top of the policy radar.
  • Resilient cities begin with providing better livelihoods for the urban poor. Covid has occurred at the same time as many climate-induced disasters. They are connected – the more climate changes, the more is the change in human-animal interaction patterns, and so the higher are the chances of unknown pathogens being released into the atmosphere and infecting people everywhere. However, an excess focus on climate change is not desirable. We need to recognize the diversity in the urban poor themselves, and the threats to the livelihoods that they face. It makes sense to begin with infrastructure development, through community-driven programs and other initiatives combining income earning activities while simultaneously protecting existing livelihoods. That’s the way to a comprehensive urban economic revival.
  • Covid reminded us that urban issues like public health, housing, transportation, water and sanitation are all interrelated. It also showed us that different residents of the same Indian city continue to live in different centuries. While some urban residents transitioned effortlessly to working from home, many lost their livelihoods, were left stranded, and continued living in hazardous overcrowded spaces. Women, children, and senior citizens faced the brunt of the socioeconomic impact of Covid. Urban planning needs to put such vulnerable and excluded sections of society at the heart of its endeavours to bring about meaningful change.
  • Action in these priority areas requires policy initiatives at different levels. At the national level, examples range from micro-insurance policies addressing the intersection of natural disasters and climate change to initiatives enhancing digital literacy for the urban poor, and further to initiatives reducing the cost of internet access and the devices that the marginalized in urban areas can use to access it. This approach will help strengthen urban resilience, and it tackles the multifaceted constraints faced by the poorest and most vulnerable urban households to recover from unanticipated shocks.
  • Building the resilience of the urban poor is the key to achieving tomorrow’s healthy, vibrant and diverse cities. The most effective way to do that is for policy to enable marginalized urban households to develop their own resilience. 

 

*Photo Credit: Google

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