Some experts on Saturday called for the upgrade of slums in Nigeria through sustained efforts to build resilient cities that would enhance good health and welfare of the residents.
The experts who made the calls at a zoom meeting organised by the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP),also said that such upgrade would protect the environment.
The theme of the meeting was: `’Cities beyond Pandemic’’.
They urged leaders in Lagos State and across the country to plan for inclusive urban settlements that would reduce migration,tackle infrastructure problems, and avert spread of diseases from overcrowding.
The experts also called for sustained slums upgrade plans for local communities that would make electricity, education, transportation, security, employment and mass housing availalable to the residents.
In her presentation, Chiara Tomaselli, the Urban Resilience Project Manager, Resilience, Sixense Engineering, Paris, stressed the need for knowledge to face the uncertainties of COVID-19.
Tomaselli ,who spoke on: “Managing Cities Development Need in Post Pandemic’’, said that ignorance and limited resources were some of the challenges facing African cities in preventing outbreak of diseases.
She called on African leaders to immediately begin to address underlying issue of infrastructure deficit that had given rise to urban slums.
Tomaselli commended the Lagos State Government’s response to COVID-19,adding that it was important for the state to build urban resilience that would provide good transportation,health and other needs for her citizens.
“We need to increase mobility without compromising health issues. Mobility shouldn’t ignore climate change.
“Also public health capturing in urban metropolitan area is important to curb the transmission of the virus. Improper water and sanitation also lead to outbreaks, ” she said.
She, however, warned that realistic planning should capture the most vulnerable people through adequate provision of affordable food, shelter and other basic needs.
“We have to know that cities are places of opportunities and they will keep growing,” she said.
According to her, technology can be used to tackle the problem of overpopulation citing Japan and Korea as examples of countries leveraging on technology to deal with congestion.
Also, Mr Nelson De Lamare, a climate change expert, emphasised the importance of the local government in driving clean climate agenda that would have direct impact on a healthy environment.
Lamare said that carbon emissions had reduced in several countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic as there had been less industrial activities and vehicular movement.
He, however, noted that the difference in carbon emissions was not so visible in Lagos because of inadequate power supply which had increased the use of generators inspite of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Fighting climate change does not only require behavioural changes but also systemic changes,” he said.
Lamare listed other causes of climate change linked to human action, and called for a need to reduce both the COVID-19 curve and that of global warming for more resilient cities.
He said that the global warming curve could only be flattened if local authorities take swift political decisions to safeguard both health and the environment.
Lamare said that town planners should be at the forefront of driving resilient cities agenda while calling for political will on the part of leaders to evolve and implement policies.
“Post pandemic recovery plans must tackle the climate crisis by improving how cities are built, organised and used, by adjusting policies towards greener and cleaner economies and increasing resilience to future crisis.
“Mainstream climate mitigation and adaptation properties in stimulus packages and investments to recover from the crisis, while setting accompanying measures for the most vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected,’’ he said.
Also, Mr Paul Okunlola, the Program Officer of UN Habitat in Abuja ,said that COVID-19 had shut down economic and social activities in several countries including Nigeria.
Okunlola said that the crisis had presented opportunities for town planners to drive the agenda of tackling challenges of urbanisation and urban slums.
He gave statistics of COVID-19 incidences and fatalities in countries and compared the figures with Ebola crisis, and called for focus on how cities develop and enforce planning to remove pressure on infrastructure.
“Urban planning will need a new Central role in the post COVID-19 recovery era. The stimulation presents a unique opportunity to rethink the way cities are planned, built and managed,’’ he said.
He called for a new city plan that would capture the informal sector and the poor to accommodate changing travel, shopping and work lifestyles of urban dwellers.
An architect,Mr Jorgen Andersen, who spoke on “Pandemics and Planning in African Cities’’ also noted the huge infrastructure deficit due to lack of sustained planning.
Andersen, an associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Denmark, made slide presentations of poor living densities of various African communities including Mokoko in Lagos State, vunerable to COVID-19 infection.
According to him, most of the inhabitants lived and worked in the informal economy in compact settlements and houses which make social distancing impossible.
“How can you have social distancing when we live in settings like this, how can you go into self isolation if you are living in a condition like this. This is a challenge for regional and urban planners.
“In order to build better cities preparing for future pandemics, communities should be carried along to become involved, upgrade slums.
“Planning is governance and governance is about interest ,and it should capture the ordinary people,’’ he said.