Peri urban areas are defined as the transitional zone between a sprawling city and its rural surroundings, neither rural nor urban in the conventional sense. Simply put, it is basically the area that surrounds our metropolitan areas and cities. As cities grow and expand the existing peri-urban areas slowly become part of the city, and new peri- urban areas spring back again, along the newly drawn city boundaries.
Today rapid residential and commercial development is replacing agriculture and other undeveloped land on the outskirts of cities. Urbanisation is changing the existing land-use patterns. There is a loss of open vegetation, and as land prices skyrocket, encroachment of common property resources and water bodies becomes common.
What is easily forgotten is that these same peri- urban ecosystems provide a whole range of services. The open spaces help in groundwater recharge, act as buffer to floodwaters, provide a range of products such as food, fuel, fodder etc, and also are as a source of cultural & religious gatherings.
A photo feature of Gorakhpur, located in the Terai belt of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, showcases this peri urban space. It highlights why protecting ecosystems and their services in peri-urban areas is essential to the survival of the poor, as well for enhancing a city’s resilience.
The peri-urban area, is neither rural nor urban. It provides natural resources for growing cities, but also depends on the urban market for sale and employment.
Small & marginal farmers grow vegetables in the peri urban areas, that find a ready market in Gorakhpur city. Today, their agricultural land is giving way to real estate.
Peri-urban agriculture has the ability to provide food in periods of floods and waterlogging too.These open spaces also act help in recharging water bodies and act as buffers to flooding.
With increasing urbanisation and reducing profits from agriculture, many livelihoods have been lost forever, contributing to rapid migration. This adds to the densification of the city’s fringe areas.
The eco sensitive land, the farms and open spaces, in peri-urban areas are soon lost or encroached upon. These areas are marked by a lack of hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, with the solid waste of a city often being dumped in here.
There is usurpation of ecologically sensitive lands for housing and other construction activities. In Gorakhpur’s peri-urban areas, most land that has been sold, has or will be converted into housing. Construction like these, that usurp open spaces reduces the resilience of the city
Most of the city, being below the river bed, faces waterlogging. These urbanisation processes have exacerbated the nature of flooding and waterlogging hazards for the city.
Eco system services are vital for the livelihoods of people as well as for resilience to climate shocks, and must involve the people who are the actual keepers of the ecosystems. Climate resilience can be built sustainably by protecting these ecosystems and ecosystem services in peri-urban areas.
This photo series is based on the Working Paper Series, Asian Cities Climate Resilience, titled ‘Wheezing ecosystems,livelihood services and climate change resilience in Uttar Pradesh.’