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By Venture Briks

Pandemic offers the chance to pursue an alternative model of urbanization

June 18, 2020

The world has witnessed an increased rate of urbanization in the past few decades. The constant growth in population led to the rapid development of cities that account for consuming two-thirds of the global energy and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. If we talk about the two most populous countries in the world, China and India accommodate 548 cities with over a million inhabitants. With 61 out of such 548 cities in India, the question of the hour remains how to pursue urbanization again.

The Covid-19 pandemic that is haunting the world for over half a year now has impacted the world’s finest cities. Those, with ultra-modern and world-class medical infrastructure, failed terribly to contain the virus. Talking about India, Mumbai and Delhi are the worst impacted due to the pandemic. There is a constant increase in the number of hotspot regions in both cities. And this has raised many eyebrows to the shocking and revealing truth about the world’s well-equipped cities.

People move out of their hometowns to approach a better life in urban cities. Students lookout for better education and millennials search for better paying job opportunities. With top-notch infrastructure, these cities promise to provide a better lifestyle and hence attract a large number of population. One of the prime hotspots in Mumbai, Dharavi slum accounts for a massive density of 3.75 lakh persons per sq km.

But, in the wake of Covid-19, many people are now moving out to their native places. But why? These are the same cities with best of class facilities and quality life. Then why people in such large numbers are returning to their hometowns? Why are the cities that attracted these migrants in the first place are now haunting them? Are the cities getting exhausted with the expansion?

Yes. the cities that were built to accommodate a certain number of inhabitants are now bearing the excessive load of the growing population. Once the cities expand beyond capacity, the pressure on every urban amenity increases. A large number of people lead to an increased number of vehicles on roads, which accounts for greater carbon footprints and an increased rate of accidents, which means more hospitals, and more energy, and waste. And that is why we experience the “domino” effect very often where a minor traffic snarl gets expanded to long hours of traffic jams. There is a constant strain on the resources of overpopulated cities.

These cities also face maximum destruction in case of a manmade or natural disaster. Congested lanes with shared sanitation facilities burnt with polluted air and crime infestation, cities are vulnerable to such disruptions.

With such enormous issues, it is time to rethink and redefine urbanization. Our habitation model has succumbed to the ongoing crisis of COVID-19. It is now that we need to turn back to the idea of self-reliant development. India is rich with land, people, and assets. Our rural areas are flourishing with the equitable resources that deserve all our attention. This is a great chance to pursue an alternative model of development that can co-exist with agriculture, industry, and service sectors. The shift towards sustainable development is the need of the hour with digitalization lifting off the constraint and diseconomies caused due to the current urbanization landscape.