Thursday, June 21, 2012

Understanding Peri urbanization process in Guwahati and Patna

Peri urbanization is one of the most complex processes often fuelled by land acquisition and nurtured by unplanned urban growth.  The consequence of this process has not only being manifested in the intensification of city’s fringe areas but has a whole lot of environmental, social and political repercussions. In fact the understanding of the basic term ‘peri urban’ has changed from rural fringe areas that surround the cities to a zone of co-existence of both rural and urban characteristics and the linkages and flows between them. Some scholars argue that peri-urban is better understood as a process, rather than a place. This makes the very understanding of peri urbanization process complex and thus requiring considerable probing. With this intend in mind SaciWATERs has undertaken a field study of two  cities namely Patna and Guwahati to assess the degree and extent of peri-urbanization process.

Guwahati to lose her pristine ecology at the wake of rapid peri urbanization
Guwahati always has a rich natural resource base of forests, hills and natural wetlands. Interestingly, for the past 10 years, the city has experienced deranged growth leading to drastic change in its land use and land cover. In a span of two years (2010-2012) metropolitan area of the city expanded from 262sq km to about 318.72 sq km engulfing vast stretch of rural hinterland. Travelling in the outskirts along transit corridors of NH31 and 37 clearly shows fast developing peri urban landscapes consisting of an intense mixture of agriculture, industry, commercial and residential use. Vast agricultural land and several water bodies have been filled to give place to high rise apartments.  Disappearing wetlands, decreasing forest cover and declining cultivable area has not only disrupted the natural ecosystem but also displaced many of the aboriginal tribes like Kargies, Boros, Garos generally occupying these fringe areas. Peri urbanization has also affected the agricultural practices in these fringe villages. Traditional paddy variety got replaced by hybrid one, ground water irrigation became rampant, cropping pattern moved from food crops to cash crops.
Intensive rock cutting has increased soil erosion
 and loss of bio diversity
Discussions with policy makers, researchers, academicians and civil society organizations have time and again surfaced the issue of ecosystem disruption due to unplanned city growth. They all agreed to the fact that peri urbanization has caused the city to lose a considerable amount of its land of high ecological value. Invasion of city’s space into the rural hinterland has disrupted the micro ecosystem of forest, wetlands and hilly landscape. Encroachment into the forest area for either residential or commercial purposes has increased soil erosion. Mr. Semata Kalita of Center for Environment and Education spoke about the problem of hill cutting, soil erosion, siltation and associated urban flooding. To him siltations of the open drains mostly due flash floods from the surrounding hills have increased the frequency and duration of urban flooding over the years.   Besides, thinning down of forest cover has promoted illegal poaching and selling of woods to the Meghalaya border. Hill cutting for construction of hotels or institutes has forced the animals to intrude into the human habitation. In fact frequent attacks of elephants and panthers have been reported for last two years.
Degrading Deepar Beel
Deepar beel which is one of the protected sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971, is an important case in point here. A majority of the biological wealth of the beel is in a state of gradual depletion due to the increased impact of human interference.  Map 3 shows the areal extent of Deeper beel in 2010. The area in and around the beel has been heavily encroached upon for the last couple of years. In fact, The Institute of advance study in Science and Technology in situated right on the southern part of the beel. The beel is suffering from environmental degradation mainly because of encroachment and waste dumping. With the fast expanding city build up spaces, it has become easy dumping ground of the solid waste. In fact the one of the dumping site of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is Paschim Boragaon Garchuk, which is closer to the beel. The site now faces various natural and anthropogenic threats, primarily from the development of road network, industries within the periphery of the site, illegal hunting of wild animals and deforestation. Deeper beel or any of these water bodies which manages to exist against the speeding peri urbanization have become lifeless pond, cutoff from the natural sources of streams or interlinking drainages. A study done by a local NGO called Environ, on the importance of Deepor Beel onto the life of four fringe villages, shows severity of the  destruction and its associated stress on the life of the people directly or indirectly depending on it.
City Experiencing rapid urban growth: The tale of Patna

Patna, like any other 35 million plus cities in India is undergoing dramatic changes in physical, social and cultural spaces.  The total Urban Agglomeration population is about 1,707,429, in addition daily commuters and floating population, like, tourists etc is estimated to be around 2 lakhs (Poverty Pockets Assessment Study 2009). Such whooping population along with unplanned urbanization has left to city to struggle with several ecological, social and cultural stresses. In absence of any revised master plan the city started showing the signs of decay both within and along its fringes. Based on key person interviews and visual assessment of the selected peri-urban sites the report attempts to throw light on critical ecological, social, health and governance issue associated with peri urbanization process of patna.  Attempts have been made to capture initiatives undertaken by stakeholders in addressing some of the grueling issues of peri urban Patna
Over the last 5-6 years Patna has gone multiple transformations—physical, morphological, socio-demographic, cultural, economic and functional in its peri urban interface. It became a space constituting of underprivileged settlers (migration to the cities by the rural poor and the resettlement of slum dwellers from the city after the demolition of their homes) coexisting with urban affluent. This has resulted into diverse and conflicting stakes, culminating into several environmental and socio economic hazards. Wetlands encroached by buildings, random dumping of solid waste, illegal constructions of industries and degraded environment  is a common scene all along  National Highway 30 (NH-30) that  connects PUA to its hinterland. Following section attempts to highlight several environment, health and governance related issues involved with peri urban Patna.
Heaps of Garbage is found everywhere 
in and around the city’s periphery
Patna city is struggling with managing its solid waste. Talking with both academicians and civil society organizations revealed that solid waste management  is among the most poorly rendered services here – the systems applied are unscientific, out dated and inefficient; and population coverage is extremely low. There is no specified landfill site and the wastes are dumped in the low-lying areas along the periphery.  Situation is all the more worse in the fringe areas coming outside the ambit of the Patna Municipal Corporation. Heaps of untreated wastes all along the bypass have become the root cause for several physical and health hazards. Problem not only lies in dumping the waste, but also the mode of transport use and the time of dumping. Mostly uncovered vehicle is used to transport the waste, resulting into frequent droppings. Besides, there is no fixed time for dumping.   During rainy season such heaps of environmentally hazardous waste becomes the source of critical water borne diseases. There is no practice of storing the waste at source in a scientifically segregated way. Citizens have not been educated to keep domestic, trade, and institutional bins for storage of waste at source and stop littering on the streets. Problem of solid waste management is crucial for Patna, yet very few NGOs are actually working towards this. Officials from Patna Urban Development Authority informed about the efforts undertaken in systematic management of the wastes. Current year under Urban Infrastructure and Governance Scheme (UIG) Ramky Environ Engg Ltd and A to Z are entrusted to execute Municipal solid waste management for Patna and Integrated SWM in Patna urban agglomerations. As a part of these schemes a landfill site has been identified in the outskirts of city in Khagol.
Discussion with the farmers in 
Maner about the arsenic pollution
Ground water is the main source in Patna and its fringes. Over the last 10 years groundwater extraction has increased particularly in the outskirts in order to cater to the ever mounting demand of newly established commercial, residential and up market colonies. Discussion with the stakeholders pointed out that Patna is still not facing shortage in the supply of water per se, as the city manages to exploit its rich ground water reserve.  However, researchers and academicians working intensively with groundwater have a different opinion to share. Dr. Ashok Ghosh of A.N College, Patna mentioned that the way ground water usage is increasing, very soon the whole Patna will be transformed from water rich to water scare city. Discussions with Dr. Ghosh further revealed that the immediate problem associated with groundwater is of arsenic. He reportedly mentioned that most of the shallow aquifer of the Patna Peri Urban Areas of Danapur, Maner etc are heavily affected by arsenic. Shallow tube/bore wells, which are predominant in these fringe areas, are thus more susceptible to arsenic pollution. Discussion with the villagers in Maner block of Patna made it very evident that people are not aware of this grave problem.  There is lack of efforts both from Government and NGO site in terms of addressing this issue effectively and urgently.
Like poor drainage condition, sanitation, in terms of construction of toilets, improved hygiene practices is extremely poor in Patna more so in peri urban area. Majority of the squatter settlements lack public laboratories, leaving no option but to opt for open defecation. Initiatives undertaken in Total Sanitation campaign has failed to generate desired results. Civil society activities complained about the corruption and nexus among Government and service providers for poor performance.

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