The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of cities that served as the world’s growth engines till now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, calling for a post- COVID-19 change in protocols, similar in scale to the post-war rebuilding efforts, to develop more sustainable and resilient cities.
“Many cities around the world declared themselves on the brink of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The very things which represented living in a city, are facing a question mark. Things like community gatherings, sports activities, education and recreation are not the same as before. The biggest question before the entire world is how to restart,” Mr. Modi said, in an address to the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Stressing that the restart would not be possible without a reset of mindsets, processes and practices, he said the historic reconstruction efforts after the two World Wars offered several lessons. “Post the World Wars, the entire world worked on a new world order, new protocols were developed and the world changed itself,” he said, adding that COVID-19 had provided a similar opportunity to develop new approaches in every field.
Making a pitch to rejuvenate cities that were now home to half the world’s population, Mr. Modi said urban development should focus on ensuring better housing facilities and work environment as well as shorter and efficient travel options for citizens.
“During the lockdown, many cities saw cleaner lakes and rivers as well as cleaner air... can we not build sustainable cities where this is the norm and not the exception? It has been our endeavour in India to build urban centres which have the amenities of a city but the spirit of village,” he said.
Tech versus travel
Referring to the government’s decision to simplify norms for technology and knowledge-based tech businesses, Mr. Modi said this would allow people to work from home or anywhere. “In today’s age, empowering people to work from anywhere, to live anywhere, to plug into global supply chains from anywhere is an absolute necessity,” he said.
While the use of videoconferencing had helped him hold many more meetings, it also posed an interesting question for the post-COVID world.
“Will we continue with the learnings of COVID times like videoconferencing or will we travel across continents to participate in a conference? Reducing stress on urban systems will depend on our choices. The choices will also help us maintain a better work-life balance,” he said.
Inviting investors to consider the ‘exciting opportunities’ India offered in urbanisation, mobility, innovation and sustainable solutions, Mr. Modi said the country was set to achieve its target to build 1,000 km of metro lines and provide 10 million urban housing units by 2022.
“These opportunities come along with a vibrant democracy, a business-friendly climate, a huge market and a government which shall leave no stone unturned to make India a preferred global investment destination. India is well on its way towards urban transformation,” Mr. Modi asserted.