As cities enter recovery, how are experiences from enabling access to basic needs and services during crisis informing how cities are rethinking infrastructure access and service design?
Through interviews with Chief Resilience Officers, and city and business leaders across the globe, it is clear that just as with human health, pre-existing conditions determine the severity of a crisis. Improving underlying conditions in supply chains, infrastructure systems and marginalized communities ahead of time pays handsome dividends when a crisis arrives. Equally weaknesses in city systems are even more visible with COVID-19..
In Pune, India, waste pickers are putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 by continuing to work during lockdown to ensure their own income and maintain this essential service to the city. In the United States the type and source of solid waste being generated is changing as residential solid waste increased by 15-25% straining collecting and disposal infrastructure. Across Asia and Latin America, efforts from programs like Urban Ocean are seeking to take a circular economy approach to reducing and reusing solid waste generating in rapidly growing cities.
In the City of Cape Town, and across the Global South, communities already affected by water inequality could become even further disadvantaged as water utilities and municipalities lack both capacity and infrastructure to ensure a continuous, equitable safe water supply under the emergency conditions the pandemic has created. The City of Cape Town provides essential services – including communal standpipes and communal toilets – to 500 informal settlements with 180,000 households. COVID is creating a significant impact on the ability of the City to read meters and collect water payments, creating flow on implications for service provision. In Singapore, and across the Global North, cities are enhancing function water supply and sanitation systems, taking steps to integrate sewer surveillance and wastewater inspections into systems for COVID-19 monitoring in order to improve the early warning of new outbreaks.
“We need to significantly scale up water and sanitation services. you cannot have a strategy that is centred on washing hands if you don’t have water.”CRO, African City
In Europe, falling energy demand and prices, combined with efforts to postpone the payment of invoices for vulnerable customers and small businesses, are threatening the functionality of electrical utilities and potentially their longer-term resilience, reliability and sustainability. In parallel, cities like Vejle, Denmark, are favoring renewable energy supply to buildings in new urban development projects to enhance energy security during emergencies.
The experience of COVID-19 in the UK is energising debate on how health systems can be transformed to deliver better community health outcomes. Health systems have adapted and changed throughout the COVID-19 response phase. How these systems function into the recovery and ‘new normal’ can learn from some of the benefits and opportunities that these adaptations have introduced for healthcare outcomes in the community. In Accra, Ghana, outbreaks of Ebola and Cholera have previously shown that public health policies are most effective when governments work closely with informal communities living with poor sanitation, cramped living conditions, and insufficient health facilities.
Cities like Melbourne, Australia, are seeing the effect green and open spaces on individuals and communities in relation to physical health, wellbeing and the environment. COVID-19 has exposed disparities in access to open and green space. Improved access can have positive effects on physical and mental health, communities as a whole and the environment.
In Bucharest, 44 % students will need to continue schooling in-person as they have no internet connection at home. In addition, schools are overcrowded and 45,000 students (17%) learn in buildings not retrofitted, at high seismic risk. Bucharest is looking at three different scenarios in-person, hybrid mode and fully digital. In any scenario, the most vulnerable – Roma, SEN, disabilities and poor- will be prioritized with digital equipment
New York City and Milan are just some of the cities considering how public transport can at some point re-open safely, while maintaining the financial viability of transport providers with reduced ridership to allow for sufficient distance between passengers. In many other cities transport and mobility are key sticking points of re-opening strategies. In Bogota, 80% of the population uses public transport to get to work. The city is targeting no more than 35% capacity to avoid crowding, meaning different activities allocated different work schedules to flatten peak, and the city becoming a 24 hour/ 7 days city to cope.
“Our transport authorities are financially struggling. Additionally, vulnerable populations depend on it, and we will not increase fares.” CRO, North American City
Lesson: Hear from Cape Town on how COVID-19 has significant impacts on water business, and their effort to continue to provide services on Cities on the Frontline #20 – WASH in Crisis and Recovery
Lesson: Manchester Briefing #7 – Consider how to protect the functionality of the utility sector including, long-term resilience, reliability and sustainability
Lesson: Resilience Shift Leadership . Emerging insight on how cities leaders keep to improve their cities’ resilience in the midst of pandemic
Opinion: In the fight against COVID-19, public transport should be the hero, not the villain– Many of those who must continue commuting rely on public transport systems, which are uniquely positioned to carry large volumes of passengers through busy urban areas. Even during a pandemic, public transport remains the backbone of sustainable mobility and essential to economic recovery.
Opinion: Green Infrastructure: Coronavirus reminds us how liveable neighbourhoods matter for our well-being Reductions in pollution from cars and industry are improving air quality in cities, which means less damage to individual respiratory systems. Furthermore, well designed neighbourhoods with access to high-amenity walkable areas includes the growth of local support networks to combat social isolation.
Opinion: – Cities must prepare for a new post-pandemic normal – The COVID-19 pandemic has called our society and way of life into crisis. Governments, the economy, and human relations have been shaken, and the population is waiting for all of this to end in order to go back to normal. However, there is no going back to how we used to live, and we should start preparing for a new post-pandemic normal.