The National Consultation on Urban Drinking Water and Sanitation, for the Planning Commission of Government of India, to provide input into the approach paper to the 12th Five Year Plan was held on December 15, 2010 at New Delhi. A submission pertaining to peri-urban areas which have emerged over the last six months during the scoping study phase of the Peri-Urban Water Security Project was made by Dr. Vishal Narain and Ms. Sreoshi Singh having the following points:
Mainstreaming Periurban Issues in Policy and Planning
As urbanization proceeds, the distinction between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ tends to get blurred, and more of the intermediary, periurban zone becomes visible. Periurban issues need better reflection in policy and planning.
- There is a need for rigorous studies of the carrying capacity of cities. Urban expansion plans need to be based on the carrying capacity of cities. Otherwise, the ecological foot-print of cities continues to spill over the peripheral areas, engulfing the land and water resources of the peripheral villages, depriving locals their access to land, water and other natural resources. This breeds a pattern of urbanization that is inequitable and unsustainable. Urban development policies need to revisit and revise the existing building by-laws in peri-urban areas, which often ignore the negative consequences of urban expansion for the socially and economically marginalized communities who are affected by the development enclaves leading to reduced access to clean and safe water sources as well as other natural resources.
- Increasingly, we need to devise ways of breaking the rural and urban dichotomy in planning. The focus of urban authorities on urban expansion and rural authorities on rural areas often implies that the relationships across ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ go unaddressed. Even if the peri-urban areas fall within a development zone, the focus tends to be largely urban-centric with little efforts to integrate rural development with the activities undertaken. The 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India provides for the creation of DPCs (District Planning Committees) to integrate planning at a district level. There is a need for such committees to be set up and similar other institutions as well to better integrate planning across rural and urban areas.
- There is a need to better recognize flows of water across rural and urban areas. The dichotomy between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ water supply is superficial and overlooks the flows of water between rural and urban areas – that will become more visible with ongoing processes of urbanization. Often expansion of urban water supply is at the expense of rural water supply, as peri-urban residents give away their land and water to allow canals to pass through to quench urban thirst, or allow water to be transported from their villages to the city in tankers.
- There is a need for policies to conserve natural resources in peri-urban areas through local community initiatives, instead of giving them away on lease to development enclaves, to serve their water needs for recreational purposes. They are often a source of livelihoods for the landless as well as for the resource poor farmers.