7 PM Editorial |India Must Invest In Urban Infrastructure For Sustainable Development|19th August 2020

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India Must Invest In Urban Infrastructure For Sustainable Development

Introduction:

COVID 19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in urban infrastructure and governance. 2/3rd of total cases are from cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

Cities are the drivers of Indian economy generating 63% of GDP and have 31% of population(2011 census). Hence they need to be built back better to create more resilience to future pandemics, climate change, disasters and ecosystem destruction.

Understanding issues:
  • Inadequate public health infrastructure: COVID 19 exposed the shortage of beds, hospitals, personnel and equipment in urban areas. Private healthcare has failed to rise to challenge and cannot cater to poorer sections.
  • Inadequate WASH(water supply, sanitation and hygiene) availability:
    • Piped water supply is restricted and time consuming in slums and informal housing colonies
    • This makes basic sanitation and hygiene of hand washing impossible in these areas. Hence pandemics cannot be controlled easily.
    • Swachh Bharat Mission is a positive step in eradicating open defecation. But much more is needed to improve sanitation and hygiene
  • Inefficient food security: Migrant exodus due to pandemic exposed shortcomings in accessibility to the public distribution system(PDS).  Further,15% of the world’s malnourished are in India. This shows accessibility is still an issue.
  • Air pollutiondue to vehicles, thermal power plants. This aggravates COVID 19 pandemic. Hence it has to be addressed to reduce the pandemic severity.
  • Energy efficiency and zoning laws are not implemented.
  • Inefficient public transport and traffic management leading to accidents and lost time in transit.
Building resilient cities:
  • Investment in public health care infrastructure to increases beds, personnel and equipment
  • Drinking water and sanitation services to vulnerable populations like slums. FICCI water mission, Jal Jeevan mission are positive. Social and Behavioral campaigns to be used bring attitudinal changes like no spitting in public areas, using toilets and washing hands
  • PDS must be made more efficient and better targeted. Poor must have accessibility and affordability to nutritious food.
  • Targeted investments in modern building, streets, sewage and water systems and toilets.
    • Green building materials to be used to reduce emissions due to the cement industry. Companies must be incentivized to promote innovation in these.
    • Building and street design to reduce need for refrigeration and power use
    • Enforcing energy efficiency norms in buildings
  • Sustaining momentum in Renewable energy generation. Last 3 years saw more renewable energy investment than fossil fuel based. This has to be maintained
  • Investment in public, non motorized  transport like bicycles. This generates more employment than investments in roads and motorways. It will also reduce accident related deaths.
  • Digital infrastructure must be enhanced to enable new ways to work(work from home, gig economy etc). It reduces transit and hence pollution. It also saves costs for all(employees and employers)
Conclusion:

COVID 19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to reset urban governance mechanisms and infrastructure. This must be utilized to increase investments in building resilient, inclusive, sustainable and low carbon cities.

Source: Indian Express

Mains question:
  1. Investments in urban infrastructure is the need of the day. Discuss how resilient urban infrastructure can be developed? [15 marks, 250 words]
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