This is a five-part series that revolves around understanding the current situation of Indian cities during the COVID-19 outbreak, and how resilience can be applied within our cities as a response to the resolutions of ‘social-distancing’. In this final part, we shall see some recommendations for strengthening ‘internal resilience’ within our cities.
This post was created by the author during his internship period and is also available at Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd (HUDCO), New Delhi.
Previous Article: Impact of COVID-19 on master planning process (Part 4 of 5)
Recommendations for strengthening ‘internal resilience’ within our cities
Master plans of our cities would need to incorporate post-COVID-19 norms into the planning process of housing, mobility and public spaces. According to a report by Hindustan Times, the DDA and NIUA have decided to look into including social-distancing regulations and other lessons from the current pandemic into the master plan for the Master Plan Delhi – 2041. Benchmarking healthcare infrastructure, providing deeper insight on disaster management strategies, increased distribution of health centres, density management, TOD and mixed use developments, and addressing challenges related to mobility and public transport systems would be the key focus areas as described by multiple urban planning experts (Hindustan Times, Chitlangia, 2020).
From the perspective described in the paper, we can also provide strategies that would be beneficial to the master plan making process.
Mainstreaming health and healthy infrastructure within master plans
There are two ways a city can ensure a healthy lifestyle among its residents. One is by providing medical services and infrastructure that caters to all ailments that occur within the city. The system would be made resilient and efficient enough to contain any sort of outbreak in the near future, by management of robust health infrastructure, workforce, medical data systems and laboratories. City design should consider well-being at the centre of urban planning. Another way is to provide quality green spaces and urban environments which respect social-distancing but also provide mental and physical relief for people to lead a healthy life. Improving green spaces and controlling pollution would be the way to move ahead. This also provides an ability to reduce inequalities among different communities to access facilities that prevent diseases and other challenges to health (Praharaj and Vaidya, 2020).
A guideline to form and density within master plans
There is a pattern that we have discovered from the global hotspots of the world, and that is the spread of the virus is maximum within high density cities. We have already seen how high and abnormal densities within city cores, caused by overcrowding, and physical form of households create negative influences on health, and creates an imbalance to our cities’ motive of sustainability (Praharaj and Vaidya, 2020). The issue is that planners and city developers have a set frame of what a metropolitan city would look like. Naturally, with the help of planning guidelines, like the ones given in URDPFI that focus more on high and compact density, issues like overcrowding, increase in informal settlements at the core, etc. are bound to take place. The paper takes a strong stand to say that high density does not necessarily mean that it should be unhealthy. Having higher densities also has its immense benefits. But it is the internal densities and physical form of housing that determine whether pandemics can be controlled and contained within a city.
Planners would need to revaluate guidelines like the URDPFI to distinguish between what is high and optimum density for a community to remain healthy. To have a self-sustaining lifestyle, planners could revisit neighbourhood concepts and earlier planning models to come out innovative ideas. Planning vision, strategies and methodologies within master plans can use terminologies like “healthy lifestyle” so that proposals in the future are forced to make considerations to ensure the same. Post-COVID-19 norms should not be only focussed to battle the effect created by the virus, but also prevent or contain any future outbreaks that can arise. Innovative solutions can be provided within master plans, in the form of development controls, that ensure healthy form of housing is maintained throughout the city.
Decentralised facility provision
We can agree that a decentralised approach could’ve been more appropriate at a time of pandemic rather than a top-down centralised approach. This model is based on equitable distribution of resources, limited mobility and increased number of small scale interaction spots. It also increases the access and distribution of infrastructure across the city. In terms of health infrastructure, secondary and tertiary setups should be able to provide what neighbourhoods depend on primary health services for (Jainer and Pasricha, 2020). Decentralised infrastructure provides economical benefits. They reduce dependency on the primary system and can provide for better resource management. Table 2 gives us insight on how different urban services can be made more decentralised at city level.
|Urban Service||Conventional Practice / Guidelines||Decentralised Planning Approach (Post-pandemic)|
Our current hotspots in India are mostly informal settlements and unauthorised colonies, within high density cities. These areas are filled with migrants and rural poor that come to urban cities with a hope of employment. The needs of the urban poor and their equal access to facilities must be ensured by planners. Master plans must ensure via its policies to provide planned, organised and dispersed spaces, and adequate and optimum quality infrastructure to support the marginal societies. Basic services like clean and assured water supply, social infrastructure and sanitation must not be overlooked by planners who wish to create sustainable and healthy cites (Desai, 2020).
Previous Articles in this series:
- Applying resilience to Indian city plans against pandemics (Part 1 of 5)
- History of Bombay and New York City Pandemics (Part 2 of 5)
- Pandemic hotspots: Result of urban density or urban form? (Part 3 of 5)
- Impact of COVID-19 on master planning process (Part 4 of 5)
- Ahmadpoor, N., & Shahab, S. (2020) Realising the value of greenspace: A planners’ perspective on the COVID‐19 pandemic.
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