Earth Right Environment

Building better cities

The current Covid-19 crisis in the country leaves me thinking about the way our cities have developed. Last year, during the first wave, nearly 80% of the cases in India were from only 30 cities. During the second wave too, our big cities were the first to be affected. There is a definite link between the way our cities are today and the speed at which the pandemic spread.

Our cities are crowded, filled with buildings, and overflowing with traffic. The percentage of green cover has rapidly depleted and there is no place for us to walk in peace, or even enjoy an entire day outdoors.

One of the major factors behind the spread of contagious diseases is of course, high population density. The continuing migration of people to cities has resulted in rapid population growth. As land in cities is limited and expensive, the only way to accommodate the increasing population is to build upwards. This has led to the countless high rise building developments we are seeing today. Earlier, where one family would occupy five grounds of land, now there are 10 families, if not more occupying the same area. Such dense developments make it harder to maintain social distancing and prevent crowding.

The biggest reason for high-rise construction in cities is to save ground space and accommodate more occupants, compared to lower density buildings. They allow cities to grow without expanding their boundaries. Once debated to be more environmentally sustainable than low-rise developments, this ideology needs to be questioned today. With pandemics such as the one we are seeing now, the context has changed enough that we should revisit the sustainability of high rise developments.

It is time for us to reimagine and change the way we are building our cities. Since the end of last year we are seeing an increase in the number of people opting to buy even small parcels of land away from the city centres to build independent homes. Would a spread out, low-rise development be a better solution? This then would require more land area resulting in smaller satellite developments. These could become self-sufficient leading to a better quality of life for the occupants.

This pandemic has largely been attributed to the human impact on climate, rapid urbanisation and overpopulation which has led to encroachment on wildlife habitats. This in turn has resulted in the spread of animal-borne diseases. Scientists say this is not the end and have predicted the occurrence of more pandemics in future. Keeping this in mind, we have to seriously rethink the way we build and grow our cities.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 12:11:21 AM |

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