How Sustainable are Our Cities in the Face of Coronavirus?

The coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic has raised questions on how well adept and sustainable are cities throughout the globe. Building sustainable cities and communities is goal 11 of SDG2030. COVID19 has just, if anything, retaliated the need for designing inclusive, resilient, safe, and most of all sustainable cities. 

Read: Decent Work and Economic Growth in Times of Coronavirus 

What are Sustainable Cities? 

According to the United Nations, a sustainable city does not only thrive and grow; rather it improves its resource use and works towards bringing down poverty and pollution. The United Nations envisions future “cities to provide opportunities to all along with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.” 

Before we discuss if the present cities are ready to handle pandemics like coronavirus, let us look into some facts and figures: 

  • 5 billion people, almost half of humanity, live in the cities. By the year 2030, this figure will rise to 5 billion. 
  • In the next decades, close to 95% of the urban expansion will take place in the developing world. 
  • Even though the world cities occupy only 3% of the Earth’s land but they account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. 

Now, how prepared are our cities to restore the balance in the environment? Adding on to this, how many of our cities are actually planned and designed to not only face but also overcome pandemics like covid19, H1N1, SARS, and maybe some other pandemic in the future? 

Watch: Ranking the Top 5 Sustainable Countries of the World 

Thoughtful Urban Planning: Key to Building Resilient and Sustainable Cities 

The history of thoughtful urban planning in the face of a pandemic goes back to 1851. It was in this year that a conversation around sustainable measures to overcome epidemics ever took place. Fast forward 2020, the preparedness of cities to handle incidences like coronavirus outbreak differs from country to country. The only common element in every urban plan is the need to build a collaborative infrastructure that can provide a comprehensive response to pandemics.  

Along with a robust infrastructure, the role of local bodies, administration, and health policies also play a critical role in developing pandemic resilient sustainable cities. For instance, the present case of corona outbursts demands not only social distancing but also proactive monitoring and direct communication with the city dwellers. All this is feasible only if the governance system, healthcare workers, and civil bodies work are in tandem with each other. Early detection and proactive quarantine are key to control the spread of viruses like corona.  

Read: No Poverty, No Problem? 

Lastly, the best urban development plans are inclusive in nature. Having such a framework that provide the much needed economic and medical assistance to the poor in the cities who are the most vulnerable is critical – more so in the times of epidemics and pandemics. A city that discriminates among its citizens can never be sustainable. Policymakers should, therefore, be proactive in taking care of this section of the population. 

Coronavirus: A Reality Check on Sustainable Cities 

Sadly, it takes a pandemic like corona to bring the government bodies and civil society on its toes and do a reality check on its cities. Is this how we want to conduct a reality check on how sustainable are our cities? 

If we want to achieve the SDG 2030, now is the time to reflect on ways in which we can build practical and long-term solutions for such situations. Frugal innovation, participative governance, and health awareness are key to beat covid19. 

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