Enhancing infrastructure to meet the needs of businesses and communities 

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 apparent when a stress like a pandemic is applied. 

In Pune, India, waste pickers put 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 has changed as residential solid waste increased by 15-25% during the pandemic, 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 generated in rapidly growing cities.  

In the City of Cape Town, South Africa, 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-19 created a significant impact on the ability of the city to read meters and collect water payments, creating knock on implications for service provision. In Singapore, and across the Global North, cities are enhancing functional 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 centerd on washing hands if you don’t have water.” CRO, African City 

In Europe, major emergent challenges to the functioning of energy markets, 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 energizing debate on how health systems can be transformed to deliver better community health outcomes. Health systems adapted and changed throughout the Covid-19 response phase. How these systems function in the recovery phase and ‘new normal’ will draw from some of the benefits and opportunities that these adaptations have introduced for healthcare outcomes in the community.  

Cities like Melbourne, Australia, are seeing the effect of green and open spaces on individuals and communities in relation to physical health, wellbeing and the environment. Covid-19 exposed disparities in access to open and green spaces. Improved access can have positive effects on physical and mental health, communities as a whole and the environment.

In Bucharest, 44% of students needed to continue schooling in person as they have no internet connection at home. Bucharest looked at three different scenarios for schooling: in-person, hybrid mode and fully digital. In any scenario, the most vulnerable – Roma, those with special education needs, those with disabilities and the poor – were identified as priorities for digital equipment 

New York City, US, and Milan, Italy, are just two of the cities which considered how public transport would 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 were key sticking points of re-opening strategies. In Bogota, Colombia, 80% of the population uses public transport to get to work. The city set a target of no more than 35% capacity to avoid crowding, meaning different activities were allocated different work schedules to flatten peak, and the city became a 24/7 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

Further resources:

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 city leaders hoped 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 neighborhoods with access to high-amenity walkable areas include 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.