Thinking outside the city: The peri-urban space

Thinking outside the city: The peri-urban space

At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 15 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 2050, almost three quarters of the world’s population is expected to live here.  In India, 31.16 per cent of the total population, about 377 million people, already live in urban areas (Census of India, 2011). Thus as cities are stretched to their limits, they break through the existing boundaries, and begin to expand and grow. And the population influx overflows into the city’s peripheral land, which is neither totally urban, nor remains rural much longer.

This transitional area, the peri-urban space, soon becomes the ground for unprecedented and hasty transformations in the name of development and progress. This expansion and the ensuing land-use change destroy ecosystems, leading to a host of related problems. Add to these the archaic policies that view urban and rural in terms of people or geographical spaces, and the impacts are grossly multiplied.

Why is direct attention to this essential area lacking? Is it because ‘peri-urban’ space itself is not clearly understood even as pre-conceived ideas persist about them?

We view peri-urban area either from a geographical, land-use, or a social relations perspective. We understand it on the basis of its proximity to an urban area, because it lies just outside the city municipal area, the people living there or maybe based on the un-urban like activities that occur there.

Assumptions of rural-urban areas too exist:  Rural livelihood must be agriculture, horticulture or animal husbandry based; Urban has to be associated with manufacturing, services and commercial activities. We forget about the sectoral interactions that occur here, rural activities do take place in urban areas and services in rural or peri-urban areas.

Thus, only a place based definition provides an incomplete picture of what peri-urban areas are like. This ‘space’ must envelop dynamic interactions between population and the landscape; their associated land uses and livelihoods; and support the notion of a vibrant flow of agricultural goods and ecological services both within this zone and between it and the urban core areas.

Also, peri-urban boundaries are constantly in the state of flux and are shifting. This area experiences high spatial uncertainty, which results in undesirable, complicated land use/land cover. They are most vulnerable to loss of biodiversity and vegetation. This necessitates the protection of land use patterns and common property resources. But does that always happen?

Share with us your views and experiences, so that together, we understand our peri-urban spaces a little better.

  1. Do the current top-down policies for land acquisition by the land authorities in our developing cities consider social equity and environmental integrity?
  2. Is the peri-urban land primarily viewed as a future extension of a city’s master plan?
  3. How does your city view its peri-urban space?  Do the city laws persist there or is it a ‘nobody’s child’? 

This blog was first published by the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, ACCCRN, here and is on the various notions of peri-urban spaces from an Indian context. A discussion thread has been initiated on the understanding, definitions and conceptualizations of peri-urban areas. Often this issue of clear notions and definitions of peri-urban spaces has been seen as an impediment in the overall development and governance of peri urban areas. 

We invite you to please share your experiences from your countries and regions so that we can together understand these peri urban spaces in a better way. 

Join us at our Urban, Peri-Urban and Ecosystems Working Group, where we exchange ideas and experiences and undertake joint advocacy initiatives in a collective form,  to map the diversity of problems between cities and landscapes, and the real and potential scale of loss & damage.

 

 

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The peri-urban space: Why it matters

The peri-urban space: Why it matters

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population is expected to be urban. Already cities across the globe face an unprecedented influx, for which they are neither prepared nor do they have the capacity to absorb. Ready to burst at their seams, our cities seem to be losing their resilience and adaptive capability.

In this background, the geographical areas near them or at their outskirt become even more significant. This is the peri-urban space or the transition zones, which is neither truly rural nor urban. Located between the outer limits of urban and regional centres and the rural environment, they can offer room for a city to breathe, and up its sustainability.

But for this to happen, it is imperative to understand this space, its limitations and the rapid transitions that occur there.

A ‘Conference on Peri-Urban Development’ organised by the Indo German Centre for Sustainability, at IIT- Madras, and Centre for Study of Science Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bangalore, dealt with the concept, emerging ideas & notions of sustainability in this area. The peri-urban space represents a wide range of uses, such as water catchments, forestry, recreation, and productive farming, as well as offers a unique ambience and lifestyle. Though considered important in the context of food security and improving livelihoods, it nevertheless competes with scarce urban resources like land, water, energy and labour.

The rapidly expanding urban centers strain existing natural resources. And the absorption of existing agricultural land on the city periphery leads to decreased green or ‘breathing’ spaces, interrupts supply chains of vital food items to cities, disrupts livelihood patterns of those living in these areas and also increases heat island effects.

Climate change impacts exacerbate this already precarious balance. Floods, rise in temperatures, droughts, water scarcity; All these events adversely affect urban areas. The peri-urban space, therefore, becomes more valuable as it can provide a buffering capacity to the cities and also strengthen their resilience capacities.

Unfortunately, a lack of clear cut conception and related concrete policies at both national and local levels has ensured that peri-urban areas are the most threatened with regards to loss of biodiversity and vegetation, and land use changes (urban expansion, land price increase). However this space can play a key role in better linking rural areas to urban areas, a key strategy for the Sustainable Urban Agenda.

A poster by Nivedita Mani, submitted at this conference, highlights the challenges faced in this fiercely contested space, and brings together all essentials needed to conserve peri-urban agriculture and ecosystems for building urban resilience in the context of the city of Gorakhpur.

poster

And yes, our poster won a prize too!

Such vital spaces around cities are under constant threat due to unclear conceptualizations and appropriate policies. Thus, the need of the hour is to initiate a dialogue on the concept of peri-urban space, the role of peri-urban ecosystems in the context of food and nutritional security, and their contribution in building urban resilience. And more importantly, to ensure that all this information is shared with the stakeholders for a better understanding of the peri-urban space.

This article was first published here by the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, ACCCRN, and has been republished here in partnership with them.

Her story: 7 ways to integrate gender in climate policy

Her story:  7 ways to integrate gender in climate policy

Disasters cannot be predicted completely, but better panning and readiness can surely reduce its impacts. And if women are included in the complete process, right at the beginning itself, from participatory discussion, decision making to training, not only will they become less vulnerable, but also strengthen the resilience of the land and her people.

An in depth assessment of gender integration in Phase I of the project,“Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood risk and Resilience in eastern India”, undertaken by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in collaboration with Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA (ISET)and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), was carried out.

The next step forward was to formulate additional strategies required in Phase II to ensure that the project becomes more gender inclusive. Discussions were held with women and men from the community and government officials at district, state and national levels, as also the staff of GEAG, ISET and NIDM. Both villages and urban habitats were covered to understand sex/gender related vulnerabilities a little better.

The underlying idea was to understand the crucial factors that would encourage the mainstreaming of gender issues in disaster management policies.The seven measures that we believe are needed to strengthen integration of gender concerns are:

Assess gender vulnerability
Greater focus must be on poorer economic groups, differently abled, transgender, single women, elderly women, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, anaemic women etc. Participatory tools must be used for facilitating discussions and a tool kit evolved to assess gendered vulnerabilities, adaptation and resilience. Atleast three habitations (village/urban habitat) should be selected per district/state for this assessment.

Improve capacity building
Build a core team to steer gender mainstreaming, preferably with atleast one staff member a woman. Hold workshops and aim for 33% women delegates as women. Organise a three monthly meeting on gender during inter-departmental meetings to build further capacity, or devote half an hour in each quarterly meeting to address gender concerns in DRR/CCA (Disaster Risk Redution and Climate Change Adaptation) integrated DDM (Department of Disaster Management).

Beyond district level
Carry out Training of Trainers (ToT) for senior officials that focus on perspective building and gender mainstreaming. Prepare case studies in English and the local language for better dissemination. Pilot two modules on gender, DRR/CCA in DM (Disaster Management) and institutionalise the same within NIDM/SDMAs (National Institute of Disaster Management/ State Disaster Managment Authority). Training methods to include document analysis, case studies, role plays, videos or participatory methods.

Make guidelines gender sensitive
Engender guidelines pertaining to DM/DRR along with other relevant stakeholders and share comments to the government on the national level ones. Ensure that the District Collector’s Handbook developed to provide practical tips and guidelines to the administrative heads of districts too is gender oriented.

Work on the UP Action Plans on CCA and Floods
Integrate gender concerns in DRR, disaster management and post disaster adaptation and recovery. Reach out to the possibility to influence the National Plan of Action on Climate Change and National Disaster Management Policy, 2009 from a gender lens.

Baselines and monitoring system
Create gendered baselines in 3 villages per district in accordance with VDMPs (Village Disaster Management Plans). Indicators may be evolved in a participatory manner, covering inputs, process, outputs and outcomes.

Create gendered knowledge products
Encourage knowledge products to view gender concerns. Create specific products that focus on gendered vulnerabilities in the context of climate change and disasters, and integrate of gender concerns within DDMPs. These should be also be translated into local languages.

So, inspite of gender integration not being an agenda in Phase I, progress was made in this direction. Similarly, the government has also incorporated, to varying degrees, gender issues in guidelines, plans and policies. The time is now, to incorporate lessons from the Phase I experience and move towards a strategy that gives women a better chance to rebuild her life and future, for a more resilient tomorrow.

This is the third and final blog based on the research project “Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood risk and Resilience in eastern India”, undertaken by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in collaboration with Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).

Blog 1: Her story: 7 reasons why women face greater risk during disasters

Blog 2: Her story: Looking at a project through a gender lens

 

Insights_Almora, Uttarakhand : Department wise key recommendations on CCA-DRR integration

Insights_Almora, Uttarakhand :  Department wise key recommendations on CCA-DRR integration

Integrating CCA-DRR in the disaster plan of a city can result in a robust plan of action, one in which all the stakeholders are involved, participative and their capacities for build-back-better enhanced.

The DDMP of Almora in Uttarakhand was revised to do just that.

During the intervention, the Shared Learning Dialogue exercise with each line department was conducted and gaps were identified, based on which the following recommendations were given:

Police Department

  •  Requirement of more fire hydrants and static water tanks in new areas, small towns and villages, especially where forest fire is more prevalent
  • Provision for more maintenance funds
  • Procurement and distribution of snow boots to the personnel
  • Development of specific strategy to encourage women to apply and join the police force

Public Works Department

  • Cater for periodic meeting and actions with forest department
  • Refer and use good practises like ADB’s UEAP project where SoR is higher than PWD normal rates, for policy changes for provisions for resilient roads construction
  • Share lessons from execution of restoration/repairs/new construction program as there are diverse guidelines, program and schemes
  • Make loss assessment process simple and fast
  • Take help of provision from SDRF for post-disaster repairing work

Education Department

  • Install solar panels in schools where power is a problem
  • Provide water lifting pump for schools
  • Timely release of funds for repair and maintenance

Electricity Department

  • Revise costing norms
  • Review verification norms and make simpler
  • Minimise funds disbursement time

DDMA/Revenue

  • Ensure that land zoning policy and building code are in place with specific re-enforcing agencies
  • Plant wide leaves tress
  • Reserve 10-15 barrel of ATF that can be used in aviation by the department
  • Install more rain gauges
  • Equip revenue police with modern communication tools
  • Provide recognition/award for exemplary work by revenue staff
  • Give women equal preference in training and other activities

Panchayati Raj

  • Cater for higher norms for hilly areas where the terrain demands higher per-unit costs of infrastructure
  •  Train panchayat members on DM and other developmental schemes and norms

Jal Sansthan

  • Develop new resilient technologies in drinking water supply
  • Develop project under UWDP
  • Deploy trained manpower in the field or training of community on repairing and maintenance

Almora Municipality

  • Improve drainage
  • Consider overhead tanks for drinking water reserve in emergency situation
  • Require more funds for repairing and maintenance
  • Ensure building bylaws are in place

This is an excerpt from a revised DDMP,  formulated with the integration of CCA-DRR concerns, undertaken by  Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) on a CDKN supported intervention in Almora, district of Uttarakhanduri district of Odisha, for Integrating Climate Change Concerns into Disaster Management and Development Planning .

Her story: Looking at a project through a gender lens

Her story: Looking at a project through a gender lens

Disasters have a greater impact on women undoubtedly. However, integrating gender concerns was not an integral part of the objectives of Phase I of our Project “Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood Risk and Resilience in Eastern India’. Nevertheless, as we moved ahead, gender dimension became a natural , but not too visible part of the study. Without focusing specifically on gender issues, we still managed to pull off a few objectives, which in itself was an achievement.

Traditionally, rural women in flood prone districts of Gorakhpur have always adapted strategies to reduce risk. With a little help from us they switched to flood and heat resistant seed varieties, revitalised traditional seeds and adopted low input sustainable agricultural practices. They created fodder banks in attics in their homes, and also started their own informal ‘chit’ fund for better financial fluidity. In some places they have lobbied with the Gram Panchayat and government to build embankments. Compared to them the risk reduction and adaptation strategies adopted by marginalised urban women were minimal.

An assessment of the project illustrates that ‘women’ were very much a part of the DRR-CCA picture and their concerns were a part of the discussion, albeit incidently, in the report during the:

Vulnerability analysis
Safety of women staff engaged during relief work, inadequate emphasis by the government, provision of light on roads, safe location and maintenance of services and exposure to new risks and unfamiliar danger due to migration were discussed.

District Disaster Management Plan
Here not just a disaster relief plan was discussed, as is normally the case, but a risk reduction and post disaster recovery phase were also included. Through the process it was realised that women were simply not a part of the shared learning dialogues. To counter this, front line workers ie. Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), who are women, were invited; and it was realized that the whole process could be strengthened by the presence of women in a larger force.

Dialogues
Through the talks and discussions held, various gender specific issues came to fore. Some of the problems that women face during disasters intensify, especially the ones governing their safety, separate toilets in shelters and the specific needs of pregnant women.

Practised, but not in the DDMP
Certain norms were already incorporated on ground, though not a part of the disaster plans. These include the facts that atleast 30-40% participants in the village DMP were women; priority was given to pregnant and lactating women; protection of adolescent girls was a priority during floods; ASHA workers had a medicine kit and received early warning information; installation of handpumps at elevated levels for safety of women who come to collect water.

Training Manual design
During the field testing of the manual 3 of the 14 participants were women. The manual mentions that women representation must be there during the training, though no specific number is mentioned. It also notes that the local women’s group engaged in processing activities added value to the resilient strategies. Gender intensified strategies that will benefit women are commented upon too.

Knowledge products creation
Documents the introduction of an early-maturing 60 day paddy crop which matures early, thereby helping farmers cope with delayed rains. From a gender lens, it demands lesser weeding than high yielding varieties, yields more crop waste which can be used for fuel and fodder, and permits saving of seeds and multiple cropping. Also the interventions with women on nutritious gardening has strengthened nutrition and food security of the households, expanded their incomes, though increased their workloads.

Staff capacities discussion
Felt the need for a gender workshop which included a field visit to listen the voices of women and girls’ and also for gender to be a cross cutting issue across sectors.

Were we looking at gender issues here? Certainly not! But specific needs of women during disaster and rehabilitation came up and were incorporated seamlessly, thus laying the basic framework to build upon. Lessons from the Phase I project can be incorporated to strengthen gender integration in the future. The work ahead lies in integrating the learnings from this experience and act locally and at state/national levels to engender policies, plans, guidelines and meet the needs and interests of women and men in the these three districts.

This is the second blog based on the research project “Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood risk and Resilience in eastern India”, undertaken by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in collaboration with Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).

Blog 1: Her story: 7 reasons why women face greater risk during disasters

Her story: 7 reasons why women face greater risk during disasters

Her story: 7 reasons why women face greater risk during disasters

Disasters affect men and women differently. Not just during the calamity, but also through the rescue and rehabilitation stage, this disparity chasm widens. The woman not only has to cook, clean, feed and take care of the family, but also faces the added confusion and indignity of water, sanitation and health issues. The difference is even more striking when she belongs to a lower socioeconomic group. Her vulnerability increases where society expectations and mindset follow a pre determined route that is gender specific and also men oriented.

To study and understand the gender dimensions of DRR-CCA, review of a research project “Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood risk and Resilience in eastern India”, undertaken by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in collaboration with Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), was conducted.

Group discussions with women and youth in Gorakhpur district threw open many aspects of gendered vulnerabilities to climate change and disasters. Here are 7 major reasons why disasters script an agonising story for women and girls:

Surviving the floods
In the past 20 years, floods have ravaged Gorakhpur, leaving several dead. Unfortunately few women know how to swim or row boats, and thus are unable to save themselves in times of floods. Out of the 10 girls spoken to, 2 could swim and only one could row a boat. For the young boys and men, social norms dictated that both swimming and rowing was an intrinsic part of life.

Health issues
Toilets, during floods become inaccessible. This leaves the women with little choice than to go out into the open, more unsafe areas. Availability of sanitary napkins and timely medical help for pregnant women is another area of concern. Women tend to inherently spend lesser money and time on their treatment as compared to the men in their families, and hence miscarriages and UTI health issues crop up.

Increased work load
Ordinary life is fragmented by a disaster. The women face an increased domestic work load and tend to walk a longer distance foraging for fuel and water. Caring for the children and the elderly adds to their daily labour. Their men folk too tend to migrate in search of work, adding to their burden.

Reduced incomes
Lesser yield of crops and fodder affects their income and role as managers of food security. Those who live in peri urban areas are unable to go out for work in flood situations. Young educated women living in peri urban areas do not get employment easily, and opt for marriage or low end jobs.

Home and sanitation
Living in tents and managing with makeshift toilets after the floods, a women’s basic safety is at stake. Compensation for lost homes or land is rarely given to women, as they do not have the title deeds in their names.

Education
Schooling takes a back seat for both boys and girls, but damaged toilets discourage girls further from getting back to the school. As water recedes they do go back, but tend to skip school when they menstruate.

Safety of women
Living in safer, temporary areas, women’s safety is at stake. They are vulnerable to violence when they travel longer distance from home for fetching fuel/fodder. And in the relief camps, there is an added insecurity, where even the unknown male officials add to this troubled environment. Sexual exploitation too is a danger they face in the aftermath of disasters.

The important question that arises from this is whether these impacts can be mitigated. Can these disaster risks that are specific to women be addressed and reduced? If they can be integrated in the local disaster management plan, not only will the disaster mortality of women reduce, but the resilience of the society as a whole will improve.

This is the first blog based on the research project “Towards Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Understanding Flood risk and Resilience in eastern India”, undertaken by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in collaboration with Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).

Insights_Puri, Odisha: Capacity building needs on CCA-DRR integration

Insights_Puri, Odisha:  Capacity building needs on CCA-DRR integration

In the course of the intervention, it was found that it is necessary to build capacity of district and state level departments on mainstreaming CCA-DRR integration.  This is possible if all the stakeholders are involved in the process. A few ways on how this can be achieved is listed here below

At the State level through:

  • Orientation on SFDRR, SDGs, Paris Climate Change Agreement & inter linkages
  • Training on integration of CCA-DRR with inter departmental convergence
  • Establish periodic review of planning and implementation

At the District level through:

  • Capacity building on integration of CCA-DRR with inter departmental convergence
  • Review of developmental plan implementation in view of disaster and climate risks on periodic basis under the aegis of DM & DDMA
  • A monitoring and review mechanism of DDMP to be developed and enforced
  • Climate data need to be generated at micro level and required infrastructure & capacity need to be built
  • Deployment/fresh appointment of expert or nodal officer in emergency section and in other key line departments

This is an excerpt from a revised DDMP,  formulated with the integration of CCA-DRR concerns, undertaken by  Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) on a CDKN supported intervention in Puri district of Odisha, for Integrating Climate Change Concerns into Disaster Management and Development Planning .

Blog 1Insights_Puri, Odisha: Department wise key recommendations for CCA-DRR integration

Blog 2Insights_Puri, Odisha: Agriculture Livestock & Fisheries departments key recommendations for CCA-DRR integration

Blog 3Insights_Puri, Odisha: Challenges & highlights for CCA-DRR integration