As cities continue to groan under the Coronavirus scourge, town planners have urged authorities to build ‘cities of the future’ that focus on the relevance of urban resilience as a new normal in planning and governance issues.
The professionals, who express the views during a webinar hosted by the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Lagos Chapter, said the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the structural weaknesses of Nigeria and reinforced the need to embark on more slum regeneration and urban renewal initiatives.
Speaking on ‘Housing typology and what they mean for the current crisis”, the National Consultant at United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UNHABITAT), Abuja, Mr. Paul Okunola recounted that the three most affected states in Nigeria – Lagos, Kano and Abuja happens to be the most densely populated cities. This, he said signifies that there is a link between urban form, urban designs, human population density, and pandemics.
He said, there is a need to use planning concepts to confront the challenges of the pandemic by ensuring that urban planning plays a central role in the new normal in the post-COVID-19 era.
“Urban planning shouldn’t be something that we just put on paper; it has to play a new role at the executive council, planning level, local government council. Despite the challenges, COVID-19 presents a new way to rethink how the cities are planned, built, and managed.
“We need to see it as a new opportunity to think anew and act new. Urban centers require new approaches to prevent and adapt to future crises, resilience is something that has to go to the heart of the way we live, work, travel, and the way the cities are run.
“Future planning will need to address the issue of informal settlements and plan for them and integrate them into planning, economic and social systems particularly arising from the increasing numbers of the urban poor.
He further stressed that cities need to adapt to the way humans are moving forward, in terms of limiting the volume of humans travels and moderating emission in cities.
While stating that the disperse design and compact city model has become a phenomenon in the country, Okunola however, noted that the disperse cities lead to urban slums and implications of climate change, emissions and putting pressure on land services.
He observed that there is a tendency to prefer compact city design which also has its challenges especially more people using common services which isn’t good for the pandemic.
“If you look at Lagos Island, it’s very compact because it is limited by the Lagoons and the oceans. Highly dense but when you have a situation of the pandemic, how do you ensure social distancing when you are living in a house with so many other people.
“So it has more challenge. Informality is a reality today and a challenge to most government in managing the space they occupy and integrating into a wider society”, he stated.
The Chairman, NITP Lagos Chapter, Adebisi Adedire explained that it’s no news that the world is currently battling with the pandemic. Going by reports, he said the disease is not just taking human lives; it is also affecting the economy of nations which invariably means cities are presently suffering.
The Climate Change Energy and Resilience officer, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), Nelson De Lamare said local governance is critical to addressing climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that climate change is linked to the pattern of disease outbreak particularly the waterborne infections stressing that by the time economic activities keep off, people have to be more intentional about how they behave and responsible to the environment.
Planners according to him, should be at the frontline of addressing climate and covid19 issues while those in authority should muster enough political will to do what is required to achieve a better urban future, leverage on institutional memory and knowledge and garner collective responses for preparedness for other diseases.
Lamare said the most important thing between building resilient cities and lessons learned from CoVID-19, is the preparedness. According to him, it is important to share good practices, creative responses to global businesses, improving how the city is built and use, adjusting for cleaner and greener economies and mainstream climate mitigation and adaption investments as well as promote eco-mobility.