How urban infra will transform in post COVID19 era:Taha Ansari-Colliers Intl India

--By Taha Ansari, Director, Project Management (North India) at Colliers International.

The novel coronavirus outbreak across the globe has made the world realize that an invisible virus can break the illusion of human being technocracy and highlighted the results of environment and social ignorance.

When we compare the impact of the virus globally and in India, we find ourselves in a much better situation. The number of cases continue to increase, but the recovery rate is also more than 60 per cent which is high as compared to any other country in the world. Despite this, Covid19 has transformed the urban life dramatically and will have a long lasting impact on everyone as we are still recognizing and analyzing the impact of the virus. 

As we continue to fight against the deadly coronavirus spread, the economic activities after being stalled for almost 2-3 months have started picking up slowly. While most of the sectors are being opened up, the urban development will still continue to face the wrath for a longer duration, owing to various factors. Due to rapid urbanization, the population density of the cities has rapidly increased. Due to limited infrastructure and transport systems, India has a higher demand for homes near commercial and retail hubs, which are high in prices, smaller and denser with fewer amenities.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, this model of urbanization has been exposed for its deficiencies. Cities have been the worst hit with high infection rates and virus spread has been especially severe in dense developments. Social distancing, work from home and extensive use of e-commerce are now becoming a part of our life. These aspects are here to stay and will be the new normal in our lives, going ahead. The lockdown has highlighted the challenges of living in small homes in dense developments.However, with all the challenges and deficiencies, cities will remain to be economic epicenters, but we will have to revisit the basic planning and measures of decongestion of the cities.

The following may be the way forward:

• Inter-disciplinary collaboration of public policies, urban planning and design using open public spaces, parks, urban forests and integrated infrastructure are needed as tools to make cities healthy.

• Instead of conventional cities with a City Centre, urban clusters with multiple satellite cities could be the norm.

• With work from home becoming a new normal for a substantial part of the population, the preference could shift to bigger and more modern suburban homes.

• Preference for private transport will increase. Way to minimize environment impact is to fast-forward use of electric vehicles.

• Commercial, retail and entertainment asset classes, would have to completely rethink their business models. Commercial space forms the foundation of any urban development and with the business models of a lot of companies in this space facing challenges, a breakdown in the market must be considered to be tackled as a problem. 

• Independent houses/Farmhouses on the outskirt of urban developments may become the new trend. 

The challenges for a country like India are amplified as we need to plan for migration of over 300 million people from rural to urban areas over the next 10 years. The urban model of helter-skelter development will have to increase, but not limiting to acquisition of much more land than before and building more trunk infrastructure. The private sector will have to step in with a major role on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) model & will have to be rework for the scale that is needed.

(With business operations in 68 nations, Colliers International is a real estate services and investment management organization. It was established 25 years ago and has about 15,000 employees. Its revenues were about USD 3.5 billion in 2019 with USD 33 billion of assets under management.)