Are our institutions, offices, shops and homes, as part of the same urban fabric, smart, efficient and secure? If they are, in what ways are they able to ensure the safety of our next generations?

Over the last one-and-half years, most of us have spent more time at home than ever before.

At the same time, we are also experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than usual, caused by both the pandemic itself and the safety measures being taken to control the spread of infection.

Today, we know how our cities for a large community and a home for a family are run more than ever before. Cities are homes to most people worldwide and a centre of innovation and overall development of built environment. However, the high population, activities in the cities and various natural and man-made disasters make the built environment and cityscape vulnerable. Likewise, COVID-19 has greatly influenced the vulnerability of our built environment.

Many new technologies and materials have been brought into practice, yet, both our individual dwellings and the built environment are haphazardly planned with a short sight on materialistic fulfillment. Concrete blocks are rising in every part of the country as roads connect one set of concrete structures to another. There are no strict zoning laws, so every private building in our growing cities, and particularly in the capital, is both a commercial as well as private home.

COVID-19 is not just the first disaster to signify the value of our dwelling and built environment.

Worldwide, over the past few centuries, research and methods to deal with a wide range of city disasters have been conducted and adopted.

Yet, again, like the 2015 devastating earthquake and annual floods and landslides, the pandemic has given an excellent opportunity for city planners, designers and policy makers to take a transformative action towards creating cities that are more just, resilient, sustainable and environment friendly.

For a reason, every community has a history of civilisation that must be passed on to the next generation because each built structure represents our tradition, history, art and culture.

They also represent our architectural skills. Thus, it is the responsibility of the civil society to pass on those physical assets to the next generation.

To do this, we need to adopt new policies and practices, and we need to educate and train people from all professions who influence the built environment.

Professionals working in planning, public health, transport, environment, sports and leisure, education, arts and culture can all help to deliver an urban environment fit for everyone.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 20 2021, of The Himalayan Times.