Pandemus: A New Piece of The City Planning Knot

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Human nature is dynamic as our environment is not static, this reflect on urban structure due to the interaction of man with his environment.

This interplay is expected to satisfy the harmonious arrangement of different landuses. Therefore, it is pertinent to note that city arrangements coupled with individual’s lifestyle are potential factors that induce pandemic outbreaks. Pandemic over the time has sharpened how cities are studied and it also influence living patterns. Without a doubt pandemic has altered life in the urban, with a scar on the physical and social lives of the city; this might roll over to generations, if not well managed.

City Visionnaire, a group of young planners organized a 3-days webinar series to address Physical Planning in the light of Covid-19 as the discipline is a response to the public health crisis and this has drawn nexus between urban design and public health over time. The event was tagged “Pandemus: A New Piece of the City Planning Knot”.
Tpl. Dr. Samson O. Olanrewaju (HOD, Urban and Regional Planning Department, Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero Kebbi State, Nigeria) opened the floor of the webinar series on Monday 25th May, 2020 as he talked on “Physical Planning: A Tool to Mitigate Pandemic”.

In his lecture, he recalled that first Pandemic in history was called Asian Minor which happened in 165BC and claimed 5 million lives. Based on history, pandemic transmits from continent to continent, spread beyond a geographical space, and claim lives. Landuse is the fabric of cities and it’s the base on which city development is driven, but the surge of pandemic was felt on economic, socio-political, and landuse. For instance, public space at the moment is not as productive as a result of the pandemic. A pandemic can damage the economy of cities for years if not well managed, several countries are now prospecting recession because of Covid-19. There is now an evident gap between the elite and the poor, and clashes between state and citizens. Inequality in the urban environment has resulted in poor housing, an insufficient supply of water, poor sanitation facilities, and ineffective ventilation. All these increase outbreak risks in urban areas, which generally can be looked at as public health. One of the factors that aided transmitting diseases and pandemic in cities is high density; we should fend for healthy density that can sustain City. Therefore, there is a strong connection between public health and urban planning because urban planning is aimed at building healthy cities. He further itemized the following as approaches to recover cities from pandemic: collaborative approach, cross-disciplinary approach, consultative approach, and citizen participation.

Following this, the webinar continued on Wednesday 27th May, 2029 with a presentation by
Amaia Celaya Alvarez on Urban Resilience Senior Expert European Commission/United Nation) who delivered her lecture on the topic “City Planning: Beyond The Acute Shock of Covid-19”. She revealed that cities are livable if: survival and respect for the environment (Environmental Sustainability), economic balance (Economic Sustainability), and the need for equity or social justice (Social Sustainability). Not all slums are homogenous and not all slum dwellers suffer from the same degree of deprivation, slum household as defined by UN-HABITAT is a group of individuals living under the same roof in an urban area who lack the following:
Durable housing of a permanent nature that protects against extreme climate conditions.

Amaia Celaya Alvarez

Sufficient living space which means not more than three people sharing the same room.
Security of tenure that prevents forced evictions.
Easy access to safe water in sufficient amount at an affordable price

She submitted that to address the issues there is need to adopt the New Urban Agenda (NUA) which represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of our urban spaces to achieve this. As the NUA proposes, as inhabitants of an urban area, it is our built environment and the processes and services that surround us, which allow us (or not) to develop all those capacities to which we have a right as human beings. Proper design and planning, as well as updated and adapted urban governance and financing systems are essential to improving the urban habitat we all deserve, no matter the continent on which we live, with corona virus or without it.

The series was wrapped on the Day 3, Friday 29th May, 2020 with Emmanuel Akinterinwa (Construction Project Manager, BIM, Northumbia University, Newcastle, United Kingdom) as the guest speaker on the topic “Covid-19: Regeneration and Investment of Urban Space”. Emmanuel opined that nothing has killed more human beings in history than infectious diseases, in which wars and natural disasters do not come close. In just few months the world has changed. Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands more have become ill from the Coronavirus. The virus has affected how we relate with our environment. The economy is suffering as businesses are closed, lockdown has been implemented, social distancing advised, people encouraged to stay indoors and work from home, transportation links are down, social life halted and the entertainment industry suspended indefinitely. These and more have had adverse effect on urban spaces, infrastructures and the environment at large. Urban spaces are not only viewed in terms of their physical configuration and urban structure, they are viewed in terms of their social status, cultural, historical, political, economic and technological perception. The lack of investment and opportunity, alongside decaying buildings and public spaces is an issue. Disaggregation seems to be the straight forward approach to adopt; on the contrary, it is not. As it will have an adverse effect on the economy and sustainability.

There is a relationship between pandemics and cities, and that’s where Urban Planning can effectively come in. This development poses the need to plan our cities in such a way that it will address the surge of the pandemic because our cities will continue to evolve, the situation which necessitates good urban design.