Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Assaying Urban Governance Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Publication Year : 2020

Preying pan[epi]demics are as old as the history of human civilizations. Genetic traces of microbes have also been found in Egyptian mummies. Science also confirms that the microbes are even older than human existence on earth and helped evolve the life on the planet. The beginning of the 18th century was marked with massive industrialization and spurred large-scale urbanisation led economic transformation in Europe. This mass scale urbanisation also caused squalor and public health threats across Europe and Asia. Since most of the industrialisation took place within the already congested urban cores and poor living conditions seriously endangered the public health with an eruption of life-threatening pan[epi]demics. Historically, Flu pandemic in 1890 took one million lives, Cholera in 1910 killed around one million people, Spanish Flu in 1918 took 50 million and Flu continued to hit humankind almost every decade. These days, 7 billion people on the planet are struggling to survive the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic is believed to took-off in Wuhan, China (a well-planned urban-industrial megacity with 11 million population) where patient zero of the disease was found in December 2019. The deadly bug has killed so far 50,000 people while contracting another one million, and the count is still on. COVID-19 has literally paralysed life on the planet. Pandemic is believed erupted in Wuhan’s illegal seafood market where wild animals (such as Horseshoe Bats, Snakes and Pangolins containing the deadly virus) were sold as an eating delicacy to satiate unhealthy eating habits of the locals. The virus is believed to be a spill-over zoonotic and a successor to its earlier known variants SARS 2003 and MERS 2013, which also had killed thousands. COVID-19 outbreak certainly intrigues one with a fundamental question- How illegal public health threatening land use activity remained unchecked in a city that has one of the best urban planning and governance models?