Struggling for recognition: Peri-Urban areas

06 Jan, 2018
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City, Climate change, Disaster, peri-urban, Resilience, Rockefeller Foundation, Urban

Struggling for recognition: Peri-Urban areas

Cities are booming across the globe. Bursting at the seams, trying to cater to the water, sanitation, land and food clamour of the teeming urban population, exhausted of their limited resources, these cities are expanding outward towards their fringes, the peri-urban areas.

Unfortunately, these peri-urban areas are neither geographically nor conceptually well defined. Neither rural nor truly urban, but at the same time dynamic and fast growing; they seem to have been lost in the ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ play of policy, politics and potential.

The peri-urban land is open for grabs especially to unscrupulous land sharks or city beneficial development schemes. Ecosystems are destroyed, air and water quality compromised, forests chopped up and agricultural fields gobbled up. The peri-urban residents lose out on their land and their livelihoods, vulnerable to the onslaught of a degraded and often polluted environment.

What the cities forget is that this very degradation in the ecosystem results in a loss of services that actually support the urban population. As river and lakes pollution increases, accessible source of water sources for the city are contaminated and destroyed. Water demands surge, groundwater table’s plummet and underground aquifers fail to recharge. Open land cease to exist, natural drainage is blocked and a buffer to floods forsaken. Also, when agricultural land is forfeited to buildings and malls, the food supply to the city is threatened by high price and availability. And soon, a landscape that was permeable, shady and versatile turns dry, solid and inflexible.

Besides the land, the people too lose out. Peri-urban areas are typically marked by slums and illegal settlements, where it is mostly the low-income families who live and survive. Living in dismal hygiene and sanitation conditions, for them their ecosystems destruction means loss of food, nutrition or income. And these are the same people who work in informal sectors in the city, ensuring further services to the city.

The time to set the record straight and to truly recognise and understand the peri-urban space is now. It is time to appreciate that these peri-urban ecosystems provide numerous essential physical and environmental services to cities and their residents; And acknowledge the peri-urban areas as what they truly are- An opportunity to boost the resilience of every city.

This blog is based on an excerpt from ‘Urban Resilience and Sustainability through Peri-Urban Ecosystems: Integrating Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction’, a Process Guidance and Training Handbook, published by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), supported under the ACCCRN initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation.

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