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Guiding peri-urban transformation

Published: 15th Feb, 2022


The rural characteristics of many peri-urban areas (PUAs) adjoining large cities are undergoing a transformation with in-migration of population.

The rapid urbanization of peri-urban areas across India requires targeted and planned intervention to allow cities to grow in a sustainable manner.


What are peri-urban areas (PUAs)?

  • As the name indicates, peri-urban areas (PUAs) are areas at the periphery of cities.
  • In India’s PUAs, different forms of settlement structures can be found, such as hamlets, villages, urban villages, slums, unauthorized colonies, and census towns.
  • In addition, numerous planned housing colonies and townships have come up in PUAs due to availability of vacant land.
  • People who are unable to live in cities due to high living costs or non-availability of houses reside here.
  • PUAs are inhabited by the native population that is engaged in agro-based activities, as well as migrants, who pursue non-farm interests.

How PUAs are transforming the region?

The transformation occurring in PUAs is seen in the form of:

  • Increasing population densities
  • Changes in land use and occupational patterns
  • Reduced farmlands
  • Growth of built structures (residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial)

Many people living in PUAs benefit from this transformation

  • There is exchange of knowledge and ideas
  • New income generating activities come up

Fundamental problems observed in peri-urban areas:

When an ecosystem’s carrying capacity is pushed to the limits, it is bound to be affected. This is exactly what is happening in several peri-urban areas of India. These areas are under tremendous stress due to pressures created by urbanization.

  • Indiscriminate conversion of land use: Open spaces, green areas, and farmlands are reducing, with the coming up of built structures and non-farm economic activities.
  • Occurrence of unregulated development: There is haphazard growth of built structures due to high demand. Many buildings do not meet safety norms.
  • Emergence of informal/unplanned slums in PUAs:
  • Inferior quality of life: In view of their illegal status, slums and unauthorized colonies remain uncovered by formal service delivery systems, such as water and sanitation.
  • Issue of drainage and Waste disposal: While there is uncontrolled construction of built structures, no provision is made for drainage.
  • Women safety: Frequent incidents of harassment reduce their ability to contribute to city life and limits opportunities available to them.
  • Population displacement:: At times, the so called ‘unauthorized occupants’ living in slums and unauthorized colonies are evicted due to implementation of government infrastructure projects, such as regional road/rail corridors.
  • Lack of access to good and reliable public transport: Due to their peripheral location, many PUAs are not served properly by public transport.

Government Initiatives at state levels:

  • In Delhi, the Development Authority’s land pooling policy aims to ensure planned development in PUAs. At the regional level, some metropolitan regions have formulated spatial plans for PUAs.
  • Amongst the states, the government of Uttarakhand, with support from the World Bank, has launched a water supply programme to improve access for peri-urban residents.
  • Projects have been initiated in PUAs of Dehradun, Roorkee, Haridwar, Haldwani, etc.
  • In Haryana, the government aims to introduce the concept of peri-urban agriculture for supplying essential commodities, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and fish, to residents in neighbouring cities. For this purpose, the Russian government has sought cooperation from Haryana.

At the national level:

  • Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs) proposed under the Constitution (74thAmendment Act) are required to look into matters of common interest between municipalities and panchayats, including coordinated spatial plans of the metropolitan area, which includes PUAs.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has requested state governments to take steps towards constituting municipalities in census towns, which are presently governed by rural governments to ensure better governance.
  • The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) has taken steps to promote food production and diversification in PUAs to improve supply of food to cities.
  • Under the National Rurban Mission, in the PUAs of Chhattisgarh, women have been empowered by way of training in activities such as handloom, bee keeping, poultry/pig rearing, amongst others. This has helped in employment generation.

Measures required:

  • Existing reform initiatives at local/regional/state/national level should be scaled up.
  • Rural-urban cooperation possibilities or partnerships should be explored.
  • Statutory participatory plans should be prepared and implemented efficiently in peri-urban areas.
  • Intangible contribution, especially the ecological role, of PUAs in making cities resilient must be taken into account during policy and plan formulation.
  • Non-farm employment opportunities should be promoted amongst women in PUAs; gender-responsive interventions, such as dark spots, safety audits, awareness programmes, should be introduced.


With India urbanizing rapidly and with the scarcity of land in cities, the pressure on PUAs will continue to grow. The social, economic, and environmental adversities visible in many PUAs are an indication of the deficiencies in legislation, planning, and governance. Thus, efforts must be made to protect the traditional character of PUAs and guide future growth in an orderly manner.

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