Updated: Apr 27
Author : Sonu T.S
Is 21st century any different from the past? Everything around is smothered with a new celebrity 'Corona'! Our earth is ravaged by yet another disaster called Corona Virus Disease or Covid-19 along with population explosion, food insecurity, water crisis, climate crisis etc. All these crises are intertwined and critical. Like demographic shifts shaped cities, viruses are beginning to reshape the way we are settling down. Will Covid-19 urge to pursue urban planning from the perspective of a virus? This is a bleak reality.
As globalization continues increasing national and international transits, diseases can burgeon between and among urban centers. Undisciplined human migration with unrestrained urbanization is making the virus spread more easier these days. This can repeat worldwide-outbreaks of diseases like Covid-19 which played havoc with homo sapiens. Covid-19 was vigorous enough to lockdown the entire world, urging us into a much needed realizations on what should be our priorities in the long run.
How does such zoonotic viruses reach human beings? Causes behind can be associated with the lack of effectual 'planning'. Unprecedented deforestation and reprehensible habit of consuming bush-meat could have been one driving reason that brought these deadly viruses closer to human beings.
The apprehensions triggered by Covid-19 pandemic could bring about a change in the way we outlined our routine. Two utmost concern of tomorrow would be to secure your health and food. Even though social distancing measures are put on place, many medical facilities are buckling under overwhelming patient load and medical supply crisis. The spread of viruses also could have been controlled with effectual planning. One classic example I would quote here would be that of Kerala model of fighting Covid-19. Vigorous contact tracing, social distancing, efficient management system – helped in realizing the gravity of the pandemic in its initial stage helping us from a dreaded community spread. On other hand, mushrooming private hospitals have seen massive predicament in this pandemic and are yet to resume the same way since people now recognize government run hospitals with pride. In a broader sense, some might recuperate, some might fall.
In fact Covid-19 is challenging the world to institute practice of growing your own food. I believe 2020 would singularly bring down the dependency ratio of the world population on ready-to-eat food market. Covid-19 must have thought-provoked at least some urban dwellers about the source of their food. A lock-down in no time disrupted the flow of food to you. How long is my food traveling to reach me then? Had it been a realization earlier that a well-planned urban farming can enhance food security. The practicality of long term food supply from your backyard is still a concern though. This pandemic is also likely to change the food pattern of some urban dwellers. Lock-down has encouraged people to stock-up tinned food items which will not expire for months for the fact that you never know when the lockdown is ending. Cultivated food crops were piled up in the warehouses, tones of them being thrown out into landfills everyday since there was no supply. Covid-19 is urging us to plan ways to store our backyard yield for long-term use.
It is also likely that the 'work-from-home' culture will become a new normal soon. Then it doesn't really matter if you are an urban, suburban, rural dweller; all what matters is whether you have access to internet. You need not get tired commuting to your work places every day. This alone can bring about pronounced amelioration in your productivity. An outbreak of virus could bring in visible lifestyle changes.
What worsened the Covid-19 pandemic is our transport network connections, the complicated web of international carry routes. The way you commute will also transform from tomorrow. Social distancing could go perpetual. You tend to upkeep the basic hygiene whenever you travel. It is to be worried whether corona injects an aversion against availing public transport for daily commutes. What is the future of sustainable urban mobility practices like car-pooling, mass transit systems and so on. Can incentivizing e-vehicles be a solution?
Decentralization of services and de-densification of cities would be the next prospect to combat another virus attack. But this could urge for more physical and digital connectivity depriving more land because of which we have already confronted cataclysmic disasters. As customary, economically weaker would be in distress.
Creating a credible database for future references is becoming impractical with unforeseeable circumstances. I envisage cities transforming Internet of Things(IOT)/ Information and Communication Technology(ICT) devices into urban furniture soon. Drones would fly with birds, robots would accompany us on streets, hidden sensors would feel us, monitor us, capture us. May be Yes! Smart living solutions, a sensor world would sure come to extricate as people will slowly assimilate sensors into their routine.
Every sector has its implication from Covid-19 and new thoughts are thriving every moment. What is the best way forward is definitely a dilemma! Everything we outlined need to be reappraised downright; reconsider the strategies adopted and re-approach sustainability in a much better way!