Reimagining the Indian Cityscape | HT Editorial – Editorials
In a notice released Wednesday, the Union’s housing and urban affairs ministry called on state governments to redesign public spaces to make them more suitable for pedestrians, walkers and bicyclists. This push to rebuild the nation’s congested public spaces was sparked by coronavirus disease (Covid-19), which has shown that overcrowded cities and mass transit systems can lead to rampant infection rates. Pandemics have also transformed cities in the past. Cholera epidemics in the 19th century led to the introduction of modern urban sanitation systems in Europe. In Bangalore, the idea of the conservation lane (separating two rows of houses) and the design of the iron grate arose due to the plague of the late 19th century.
Urbanization in India has been rapid and disorderly, and the state has often failed to respond to emerging challenges. Covid-19 gives urban planners the opportunity to tackle them: make room for walking and cycling, guarantee equitable access to basic services (health, education, water); improve informal settlements with affordable, climate-sensitive housing; invest in green spaces and urban forests to improve the microclimate of an area; increase regional city planning because what affects cities cascades into surrounding areas; and empowering local urban agencies administratively and financially to make governance more proactive and effective. Furthermore, urban policy must recognize migrants as a legitimate electorate, with equal rights to public provision and services.
India, with its population, diverse planning needs and competition for limited financial, technological and data resources, will not find this easy. But it must be done urgently.