Peri-urban areas in India face numerous challenges due to patterns of urbanisation and ambiguity in their administrative status. They are constantly transforming and are characterised by a mix of urban and rural features, with development practices often neglecting the natural ecosystems present in these areas.
ICLEI South Asia, under the CDKN Knowledge Accelerator project, is developing a policy brief titled ‘Peri-Urban Ecosystems – The Potential for a Planned Approach in India’. The brief, which is currently being peer-reviewed and will be finalised for the release soon, highlights the complex challenges of peri-urban areas and why it is important to carefully manage the ecosystems in these areas. The brief provides recommendations for various levels of government on planning for inclusive and sustainable urban development with an environmental lens.
Natural ecosystems in peri-urban areas, along with the goods and services they provide, are critical for both the people living in these areas, as well as those in adjacent cities. Cities fulfill many of their natural and human resource requirements from peri-urban areas. Moreover, ecosystems such as open spaces and agricultural lands in peri-urban areas promote resilience in a city. For example, they can act as buffers during flooding.
However, peri-urban areas face unique challenges due to rapid urbanisation and ambiguity over boundaries and administrative status. These challenges often lead to the neglect of ecosystems during planning. A number of policy responses can potentially protect and sustainably manage these ecosystems. India’s National Urban Policy Framework of 2018 puts the onus on states to plan for the development of urban and peri-urban areas. States should work together with peri-urban stakeholders to plan for inclusive development that is sensitive to peri-urban ecosystems.
An integrated approach to the management of peri-urban areas can potentially bridge the rural-urban divide and amalgamate planning at the district level, bringing together multiple stakeholders for decentralised and inclusive local governance.