ICLEI South Asia, the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN) Asia Coordinator, organised an online Policy Dialogue on Peri-Urban Ecosystems – Potential for a Planned Approach in India on the 25th of August 2020. Field experts from various organisations participated in the dialogue and gave their feedback on the brief prepared by the CDKN Asia team.
The brief examines the importance of peri-urban ecosystems and outlines possible policy responses to preserve and manage ecosystems to contribute to sustainable and climate-resilient development. It also provides a general overview of peri-urban areas in India and acknowledges that issues pertaining to such regions should be dealt with contextually.
Due to unclear administrative boundaries and associated governance challenges, peri-urban areas and their ecosystems are often neglected, affecting livelihoods and the environment. With limited access to modern infrastructure, clean water or sanitation facilities, and the growing pressure of unplanned urbanization, these areas face increased vulnerability to climate change.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Development Alternatives (DA), Wetlands International, CEE among others. Representatives from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) as well as CDKN partners Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and South-South North (SSN) were also present for the meeting.
Georgina Cundill Kemp, IDRC pointed out, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the world towards preparing for climate change impact; it has unraveled the lack of preparedness in different sectors. We need to see how we can leverage this moment to build more resilience”.
Dr. Shiraz Wajih, President, GEAG, raised some pertinent points about peri-urban systems and the traditional biases they face which prevents them from getting due recognition.
“The value of ecosystem services needs to be assessed and recognised. Moreover, the cost-benefit analysis of services from peri-urban areas need to be evaluated and presented to planners in a manner that helps them to understand the nuances,” he said.
Bhawna Bali, Assistant Professor, TERI School of Advanced Studies, mentioned that planning in India is driven by the urban agenda, and the land acquisition process is flawed and driven by urban infrastructure requirements with little or no value assigned to the ecological services provided by peri-urban ecosystems.
“District planning committees and other bodies need to be diversified and strengthened, rather than only including elected representatives, to be able to represent diverse populations,” she added.
The experts also brought up issues like inequalities in gender roles in the peri-urban areas. There is a lack of social cohesion, limited control of women on property and resources currently in these areas, and should be looked at. The speakers also discussed the lack of commons in these areas. Touching upon the gap in governance, Dr. Vishal Narain, Professor, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon said, “Peri-urban ecosystem planning requires the collaboration of a large number of actors. However, only integration with government departments will not be helpful.”
“There is a need to bring in other proactive non-state actors like Resident Welfare Associations,” he proposed.
Umamaheshwaran Rajasekar, Chair, Urban Resilience, NIUA said that there is a need to acknowledge the complexity of peri-urban areas.
“Peri-urban areas is a state subject. Different states have different approaches and we should look into that. Moreover, strong monitoring is required to assess transitions taking place in such areas,” he added.
The CDKN team will be incorporating the comments and suggestions shared by the experts during the closed event. The policy brief will then be published for public consumption shortly.