It was right in the beginning of the 21st century that the word "Urban" started becoming synonymous with 'Growth' & Development". However, a few years down the line, the dynamics of urbanisation changed, bringing about landscape changes through changes in land use and the land cover pattern with great impact on human health. In most of the places, urbanisation was accompanied by deforestation and habitat fragmentation, linked with loss of biological diversity. Additionally increase in human population created further pressure on large and rapidly expanding cities, turning them into areas with high density human habitation, vehicular traffic, infrastructure and other ecological changes.
Key facts of the ever-growing peri-urban spaces:
- Urban settlements account for just 2% of the earth's land surface but support over 50% of the world's population residing in these city precincts (UN 2001)
- It took nearly 40 years (between 1971 - 2011) for urban population to increase from 100 to 375 million and it will take only half the time to add the next 250 million
- Population of urban areas increased from 19% to 32% from 1971 to 2011
- More than 200 mn Indians live in slums - (in Bangalore more than 25% live in slums)
- Indian cities are home to about 600 million people and to this will be added another 350 mn in the next decade. The massive transformation represented by the shift to cities will rank as 21st century's second largest urbanisation, after China
- More than 70% of India's urban workers earn their livelihood in the informal economy
- About 52% of India's population currently lives in cities and is expected to increase to 70% by 2025
In India, rapid urbanisation has brought complex changes to ecology, economy and society. During the last 50 years, India's population has grown two and a half times, while urban population has increased by five times. About 60% of this urban population growth is attributed to natural growth, and the remaining 40% can be considered due to migration and spatial expansion. Undoubtedly, urbanisation will continue to have substantial impact on the ecology, economy and society at local, regional, and global scales.
The term "rural-urban fringe" was first introduced by T.L. Smith in 1937. By mid 1940s, changes on city fringes came under increasing attention from spatial disciplines, especially urban geography in the United States and Europe. These spaces began to be increasingly seen as zones of innovation, knowledge and globalised enterprise, attracting new types of housing, transport infrastructure and multifunctional agriculture, with diverse recreation sites and ecosystem services.
Peri-urban regions have today emerged as dominant urban spaces. While in older industrial or post-industrial countries, the peri-urban was a zone of social and economic change and spatial restructuring, in newer industrialising countries, and most of the developing world, they have come to denote chaotic urbanisation leading to mega-sprawl. In both cases, the peri-urban spaces were viewed as not just a fringe in between the city and countryside or zone of transition but a new kind of multi-functional territory. It became more of an in-between, not clearly delineated, hybrid result of different forces operating at different scales. Regarded as a transition zone, it lay on a spectrum from rural-to-urban and one that was a direct result of urban development and expansion.
Overall, these urban-driven transitions have been taking place in a new territory outside and between urban cores that are now referred to as a phenomena of 'peri-urbanisation'
These peri-urban interfaces - zones where urban and rural areas meet - suffer from some of the most acute problems caused by rapid urbanisation, including intense pressures on resources, slum formation, lack of adequate services such as water, power, sanitation, poor planning, rampant pollution and degradation of fertile land. Marked by scattered settlements that are highly dependent on transport for commuting amongst fragmented communities, these zones are often subject to poor spatial governance. The entire process of urbanisation presents challenges, not just for residents but also the farming community who live on the urban fringes. Conversion of farmlands and eco-zones to urban spaces has reduced the amount of land that is available for food and other biotic resources. By spreading into their surrounding landscapes, these areas are gobbling up food, energy, water and resources from the natural environment without taking into account the social, economic and environmental consequences that are generated by this swelling 'urban footprint'.