We live in a world where socially and economically vulnerable people suffer the worst during dire situations. According to the American Planning Association, “Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”
And according to the Urban Resilience Hub, “Measurable ability of any urban system, with its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses, while positively adapting and transforming towards sustainability.” But the vagueness of the terms ‘urban’ and ‘resilience’ is frequently criticized and discussed, and often defining urban resilience and crisis aversion is “inconsistent and underdeveloped with respect to incorporation of crucial concepts found in both resilience theory and urban theory.” (Meerow et al, 2016)
The crises could be perpetual threats such as global warming and capitalism or sudden disasters like natural calamities, pandemics, terrorism, etc. In academia, the exploration of urban resilience revolves around the crises namely – climate change, terrorism, and natural disasters. And concurrently the physical and non-physical infrastructural aspects of urban planning required to combat the mentioned crises are discussed in academic circles.
So for instance, for climate change, the strategies discussed would be sustainability in the present and future. For natural disasters, the urban resilience strategies can be either preventive or post-disaster or both, depending on the type of disaster. Resettlement of populations after the disaster would be an integral part of urban resilience strategies in this case.
With the world falling apart right now, more than ever, appropriate governing principles and policies are required to mitigate damages to the lives of every living person. There are numerous examples where proper disaster management has been implemented, and there are countless others where there haven’t been.
Multi-dimensional Resilience Framework | Urban resilience
Organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation aid cities in developing strategies to deal with disasters. Arup, a London-based professional services firm coordinated with the Rockefeller Foundation and has come up with the City Resilience Index (CRI) which is a framework consisting of the following four aspects of urban resilience:
Health and Wellbeing: Safeguarding principles of health and lifestyles of populations
Economy and Society: The social and economic systems that enable urban populations to live peacefully, and function collectively
Infrastructure and Environment: Physical structures that protect and shelter communities and has reliable communication and transit
Leadership and Strategy: Effective governing policies and management that are informed and inclusive
In the Face of the COVID crisis
For the people in India and other countries in the global south like Brazil, etc, we’re currently living in a time with an ongoing pandemic that isn’t being mitigated exactly because of lack of proper planning which is a crucial aspect of urban resilience. The Government of India, headed by Narendra Modi, has managed to create a humongous catastrophe in the face of the pandemic.
And at the same time, examining the state government of Kerala, headed by Piranayi Vijayan, took strategies to mitigate the crisis, aiding people during the very same pandemic. As has been known consecutively, from the floods that wreaked havoc a few years ago to the current pandemic, the measures taken by Pinarayi Vijayan are one working model of urban resilience.
The events unfolding before our eyes, and going through such lived experiences should make people realize that governing bodies that take appropriate strategies to deal with crises are the only plausible way to prevent or mitigate disasters; the very disasters that inadvertently affect some more than others. And it is necessary that the urban resilience systems have a portion of the discussions that will put thought into creating systems that hold people responsible for the disasters accountable.
There are such existing systems in place, but the workings of the systems and the policies that are passed must adhere to the urban resilience frameworks, and that might be the only way to avoid catastrophes in the future. After all, urban resilience is essentially planning for the future.
Fighting for Resilient Neighbourhoods
Systemic prejudices that lead to acts of violence against communities are primary long-standing crises that large groups of people deal with every day. Living in a digitally advanced era, governing bodies are adapting to digital means of securing a hold on the ongoings, such as putting up more surveillance would help keep neighbourhoods safe for women and vulnerable communities.
But policing women is inherently patriarchal and is constantly and widely criticized. This is an instance of why it’s equally critical to not make policies that create further grievances as it is to make policies that help mitigate stresses.
So urban resilience strategies can and should deal with such life-changing and many times life-threatening issues such as sexism, police violence, racism, etc. The discussions and discourse surrounding urban resilience seem to be wide and multidimensional, and so I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder on this further.
References | Urban resilience
American Planning Association. (n.d.). Planning for Resilience. [online] Available at: https://www.planning.org/blog/blogpost/9124762/. [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Urban resilience. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_resilience. [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Meerow, S., Newell, J.P. and Stults, M. (2016). Defining urban resilience: A review. Landscape and Urban Planning, 147, pp.38–49. [Accessed 7 May 2021].
The Rockefeller Foundation. (n.d.). City Resilience Framework. [online] Available at: https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/report/city-resilience-framework/. [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Mariani, L. (n.d.). Urban Resilience Hub. [online] Available at: https://urbanresiliencehub.org/what-is-urban-resilience/. [Accessed 8 May 2021].
jacobinmag.com. (n.d.). David Graeber: After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep. [online] Available at: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/03/david-graeber-posthumous-essay-pandemic. [Accessed 8 May 2021].
cityresilienceindex.org. (n.d.). City Resilience Index. [online] Available at: https://www.cityresilienceindex.org/#/. [Accessed 8 May 2021].