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Cities have borne the maximum brunt of the covid-19 outbreak but they will also be key to India’s post-pandemic growth as they account for nearly 70% of the country’s GDP and an average of 25-30 people migrate to cities from rural areas every single minute, a new study has shown.

The study by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) said the unfolding covid-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for cities.

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“According to estimates, about 70% of India’s GDP comes from its cities and around 25-30 people migrate to the cities from rural areas every minute. However, most big cities in India have a wide economic disparity, with expansive slums and a large urban poor population," the WEF said.

The study further said that about 25 million households in India—35% of all urban households—cannot afford housing at market prices and it is time to create a new urban paradigm that enables cities to be healthier, more inclusive and more resilient.

The WEF report, titled Indian Cities in the Post-Pandemic World, highlights the country’s most pressing urban challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic. The report also provides insights for translating the lessons learned from the pandemic into an urban reform agenda.

The impact of the pandemic has been profoundly uneven on different population groups. Vulnerable populations, including low-income migrant workers, have suffered the dual blows of lost income and weak social-protection, while the pandemic has also laid bare gender-based imbalances in public and private life in India’s urban areas, the WEF said.

The report, produced in collaboration with IDFC Institute, Mumbai, compiles insights from leading global and Indian urban experts across seven thematic pillars— planning, housing, transport, environment, public health, gender and vulnerable populations.

Among other recommendations, the report underscores the critical role data can play in helping cities manage and direct emergency operations during a crisis.

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