The world is being increasingly affected by environmental disasters, and recurring cyclones on the eastern coast of India are testimony to it. To this end, the building of resilient infrastructure plays a key role in today's development landscape. It is time to focus on making our infrastructure systems more resilient to the inevitable physical and climate change risks. Urbanization has proceeded far in India, and along with it, many environmental balances have been disturbed. This is going to increase the risk of natural disasters, and unless basic infrastructure like airports, transmission lines and telephone towers can withstand the changing physical realities, we are going to face some difficult times. Buildings constructed in earthquake-prone areas will need to be able to withstand the intensity of the seismic shocks. The best way out is to share ideas and studies pertaining to different experiences, at both a national and international level.
Infrastructure has the potential to shape the future of modern economies and societies, and we need to ensure we develop it and use it in the right spirit. Resilient infrastructure is not only about roads, bridges and power plants, but equally about people, households and the communities for whom this quality superstructure is a lifeline to better health, education and livelihoods. Investing in resilient infrastructure is ultimately about unlocking better socioeconomic opportunities for the masses. That needs to constitute a key policy priority if the dream of a safer, more secure, inclusive and prosperous future for all Indians is to be realized.
A lack of resilient infrastructure harms people and society more than is commonly believed. Natural disasters, which are now rising worldwide in magnitude and frequency, cause direct damages to power generation and transport infrastructure, costing billions of dollars a year in emerging economies. But the wider disruptions they trigger on households and business activity is an even bigger socioeconomic issue.
From the business perspective, for investors in the infrastructure space – whether the public or private sector – it is clear that investing in resilient infrastructure is both financially sound and socially profitable. It is not about spending more, but spending better, on changing human priorities.
Investing in resilient infrastructure will be a key factor in our ability to sustain our economic growth and ensure citizens a decent quality of life. By building resilience into infrastructure, systems can be better designed and with greater flexibility, so that damages caused by natural disasters are localized and do not spread through entire networks, crippling the economy at large. Covid has revealed the dangers of depending on unreliable infrastructure, and that is a risk we cannot again afford to take. At a broader level, the entire institutional setup needs to be built for resilience, by identifying key assets and diverting national resources towards them.
Without adequate policy support, the development of resilient infrastructure risks remaining just a cliché. Then it would be viewed as a nice-to-have, rather than the imperative it truly is. By framing clear and achievable goals, and providing strategies and examples to facilitate their execution, policymakers should fulfill their role in the development of resilient infrastructure – which can help create the more inclusive and sustainable future we all deserve. Climate change and disaster management have put the spotlight on the development of resilient infrastructure. It is an idea whose time has come.