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Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures



Supporting positive economic, social, and environmental links between urban, periurban, and rural areas is identified as one of the targets of SDG 11 for Sustainable Cities. However, in a neoliberal urban-growth centric economic paradigm where cities form the heart of global and national capital, and policy, the urban-rural linkages can distribute flows and resources in favor of urban centers often at the cost of rural areas and their resources. Water ecologies at the peripheries of cities are characterized by rapid transformations in the face of urban expansion and consequent changes in land use and water demands. This chapter concisely encapsulates the key transformations in periurban water.
Periurban Water: Recognizing
the Margins for Sustainable
Urban Water Futures
Shreya Chakraborty
South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary
Water Resources Studies, Hyderabad, India
Rurban (water);Semi-urban (water);Suburban
(water);Urban Fringe (water);Urban sprawl
(and water)
Periurban space refers to transitional regions,
outside of the city boundaries, which show a mix
of fragmented rural and urban characteristics in
terms of institutions, land uses, activities, services
(Allen 2003; Woltjer 2014). It is a rapidly chang-
ing space that is transformed by the extension of
urbanization processes into the surrounding rural
areas. These areas are generally characterized by
diverse urban and rural actors, often with
conicting stakes (Dupont 2007).
Institutions here refer to the constellation of
actors and the rules and norms developed to
determine their relationships, agreed-upon rights,
interactions, and transactions (North 1990;
Ostrom 2005). While governance systems such
as urban municipalities and rural local
governments are formal state institutions, other
coalitions based on market, contracts, social
identity and norms, or a shared cause can also
be considered as institutions (Ostrom 2005). The
means and processes by which relationships and
interactions are operationalized comprise institu-
tional mechanisms.
As engines of neoliberal economic growth cities
have become the focus of policy, investments,
opportunities, migration, and resource demand.
Urbanization has thus become one of the most
signicant processes of transformations of social,
economic, political, and natural systems. 54% of
worlds population lives in urban areas and by
2025 the center of gravity of urbanization globally
is projected to shift to the developing countries of
Latin America, China, and India (UN 2018).
Much of this growth is coming from the large
cities and megacities which are predominantly
located in the developing countries. The continu-
ing rapid expansion of these large cities brings
with it an expanding appetite for resources such
as land and water. As core cities become increas-
ingly congested and exclusionary with high land
values, constrained resources, unequal distribu-
tion of services, much of the new urban growth
takes place at the margins or the peripheries of the
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021
W. Leal Filho et al. (eds.), Clean Water and Sanitation, Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,
cities (Kundu and Saraswati 2016; Sheng 2018;
Hamel and Keil 2016).
Drivers and processes of peripheral urban
development have varied in different local spatial
contexts of cities globally. Settler colony states
(e.g., USA, Canada, Australia), postindustrial
cities (e.g., USA, UK), social welfare states
(e.g., Western European countries), postsocialist
countries (e.g., China, Eastern European coun-
tries), postcolonial countries (e.g., in Asia, Africa,
South America) have seen peripheral urban devel-
opment through different historical, political, and
socioeconomic processes and experience varied
types and levels of resource outcomes (Hamel
and Keil 2016; Couch et al. 2008). In most post-
colonial developing countries of Asia, Africa, and
Latin America with dense rural population, lim-
ited state capacity, emerging rapid urbanization,
periurban development has been spontaneous,
heterogenous, and largely informal. On the other
hand in most countries of the postindustrial global
north periurban developments comprised of the
middle and upper class population, high capital
services, and planned developments moving out-
ward toward the resource rich rural hinterland yet
closely connected to the urban economy. How-
ever, in recent years, even in these countries many
cases show an emergence of proliferating land-
scape of poverty mixed with the gated upper class
developments emerging in the outer periurban
areas (Hamel and Keil 2016; Ranganathan and
Balazs 2015). Thus, behind the particularities of
local contexts, there also lie universalisms of
global capital, labor, rural transformation, and
urban growth processes.
Population migrating from rural areas for
opportunities of urban employment and services
as well as those migrating out of city centers for
improved resources and quality of life is settling
in the peripheral regions commuting daily to the
city leading to high population growth rates at the
peripheries, exceeding that of the core city
(Kundu et al. 2002; Leaf 2011; Couch et al.
2008; Parés et al. 2013). Availability of land and
lower land values coupled with proximity to the
city has made the urban peripheries highly condu-
cive for locating residential real estate, industries,
business districts, special economic zones,
research institution campuses, and other urban
development (Dupont 2007; Woltjer 2014;
Hamel and Keil 2016). In addition to urban devel-
opments, waste generated from cities also tends to
be directed to the urban peripheries through
wastewater channels and designation of periph-
eral areas for city landlls and dump yards. Large
megacities thus expand by seeping into the sur-
rounding peripheries through channels of trans-
portation, daily labor movement, industrial
corridors, streams of outward and inward migra-
tion, real estate expansion, and resource and waste
transfers, setting in motion a process of periurban
development (Leaf 2011; Douglas 2006). The
linkages between the periurban areas and the
core city signicantly sustain the labor, capital,
and resource demands of city and in turn trans-
form the periurban areas and its resources.
The periurban space makes for a unique
contested resource space with mixed urban and
rural characteristics, functional linkages with the
city, and reciprocal ows of people, resources, and
services. Urban actors, land uses, services often
compete with rural livelihoods, land uses, and
institutions for periurban resources (Dupont
2007; Allen 2003; Leaf 2011). Focus on contested
land resources and land use changes predominate
in the literature on the periurban space. However,
the complex dynamics of water resources of peri-
urban areas has received more recent and increas-
ing focus over the past decade. Urban growth and
the consequent periurban development have sig-
nicant implications for periurban water
resources, access, and vulnerability. In the bina-
ries of urban and rural categories in planning and
policy, the unique complex character of the peri-
urban space and the specic consequent outcomes
for its water resources and access is often over-
looked (Simon 2008; Mehta and Karpouzoglou
2015; Maheshwari et al. 2012). The present chap-
ter aims to bring focus to the periurban space, the
changing water ecologies of this region, their
impact on water access for the local community,
and the specic processes that produce these
resource outcomes.
2 Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures
Periurban Water Ecologies:
Transformations and Processes
Water ecologies at the peripheries of cities are
characterized by rapid transformations in the
face of urban expansion and consequent changes
in land use and water demands (Douglas 2006;
Roth et al. 2019; Haase and Nuissl 2007; Morote
and Hernández 2016; Tu et al. 2007; Leaf 2011).
This section will elaborate some of the processes
and conditions that predominate in the periurban
space and the impacts they have on the periurban
water ecologies. Figure 1summarizes these
through a diagrammatic illustration.
Land Use Changes and New In Situ Water
As the city spills over into the peripheral rural
areas, several new urban and industrial land uses
emerge in these periurban areas. Industrial clus-
ters, special economic zones, business and IT
hubs, urban recreational facilities such as water
parks and golf courses, and upper class residential
housing with lush watered lawns and swimming
pools get located in these areas which create new
water demands in the periurban space (Domene
2014; Mehta et al. 2014; Askew and McGuirk
2004). In contexts where the urban governance
system caters to the water provision for the urban
sprawl developments, new consumptive water
demands increase the economic and resource bur-
dens of the urban governance system (Gillham
2002; Domene 2014). On the other hand, in cities
where the urban governance system does not, or
only selectively, provide water supply to estab-
lishments outside of its administrative boundaries,
these emerging developments tend to depend on
privately and/or informally accessed local peri-
urban surface and ground water resources to
meet their high water demands (Malano et al.
2014; Ranganathan and Balazs 2015). These pro-
cesses create a burden on the urban and local
periurban water resources which get increasingly
depleted producing water scarcity (Narain 2009;
Sen et al. 2019; Parés et al. 2013). Agricultural
lands, forested areas, and open rural spaces are
converted into a concretized landscape which
impacts surface water inltration and runoff
(Dupras and Alam 2015; Gillham 2002;
Maheshwari et al. 2012). The emerging new
water demands and water stress in the periurban
space create contestations between traditional
livelihoods and household water demands of the
rural communities and the emerging urban
water uses.
Complex Jurisdiction and Governance
The periurban space exists within a fuzzy institu-
tional milieu. The proliferating urban, private, and
industrial actors of the periurban space spill into
the jurisdiction of adjacent municipalities, village
governance systems, or the larger regional/pro-
vincial levels of governance as different country
contexts may be. In some contexts, adjacent
municipalities and agglomerations that absorb
periurban development, particularly upper class
and high capital developments, may grow and
express more political autonomy and aspiration
increasingly competing for investment and
resources within the larger metropolitan or pro-
vincial regions (Hamel and Keil 2016). This can
impact competition and inequality between the
city centers and periurban developments for
water access (Parés et al. 2013). In most develop-
ing countries where rural governance is devolved
to the local levels, the village governance with
limited local political mandate has to compete
for stressed local water resources with dispropor-
tionately stronger political urban and private
actors who are often backed by the market
and/or the state. This power imbalance between
the local rural institutions and urban actors limits
the local governance capacity to regulate the
urban and industrial activities in this space (Zhu
2013; Marshall and Dolley 2019; Kennedy 2007).
Uncertain jurisdictions are thus conducive for
contestations and rampant breach of regulations
around resource extraction, environmental stan-
dards, construction, and industrial production
(Sajor and Ongsakul 2007; Karpouzoglou et al.
2018). It creates a space for ourishing illegality,
informality, privatization, and hybrid institutional
forms (Marshall and Dolley 2019) that enable the
circumvention of policies and costs designed to
Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures 3
protect water bodies and water resources (Dávila
Water bodies, river ood plains, stream channels,
and catchments are in most countries often pro-
tected by regulations around ood plain manage-
ment and zoning, buffer zones demarcated around
water bodies, wetlands, and water bodies conser-
vation policies, etc. The high demand for land for
urban expansion and weak institutional regime of
the periurban space encourages rampant illegal
encroachment of water bodies, catchment areas,
and ood plains (Montz and Gruntfest 1986;Vij
and Narain 2016; Chigurupati 2008; Mao et al.
2018). These encroachments affect urban ood
vulnerability and surface water availability and
access, particularly during extreme climatic and
rainfall conditions. Water bodies and wetlands are
lled up and reclaimed for land for construction
purposes. Inlet channels to water bodies are
encroached for developing built up areas, which
obstructs the inow of water into tanks and ponds,
reducing their water storage and drought proong
capacity (Prakash 2014). Rivers and streams are
stied with constrained channels and concretized
catchments creating increased risk of ooding and
water logging during rainfall seasons. Encroach-
ments of water sources thus create immense vul-
nerability of water scarcity and resource
uncertainties for local communities.
In its reciprocal relationship with the city, peri-
urban areas provide resources for urban expansion
while receiving waste and pollution from the city.
As industries were relocated from the industrial
cities of the global north, the industries often got
located at the peripheries of major cities in the
developing countries. Polluting industries partic-
ularly got located outside the cities, in the peri-
urban areas, due to their harmful environmental
Urban services
Urban residential
Agriculture land
Upper class suburban
residential housing
and estates
Urban Slums and
working class
Forest areas
Commercial districts
Recreation sites and
Village settlement
Urban landfills
Urban wastewater
Water Bodies and
Utilities and
infrastructure for
urban water supply:
reservoirs, Treatment
plant, pipelines
Non-agric. open
lands, pastures
Surface freshwater
irrigation canals
Migration for settlement: pop. growth
Spatial water transfer
Daily commuting labour Migration for settlement: pop. growth
Pollution: industries and wastewater
Encroachment of water
bodies and floodplains
In-situ demand,
diversion of water
Deteriorating water
Depleting water
Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures, Fig. 1 Mosaic of landuses in
the periurban space and its transforming water ecologies
4 Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures
and health impacts. Unregulated and untreated
release of industrial efuents into local water bod-
ies and streams creates severely deteriorated sur-
face water and groundwater quality in the
periurban areas (Karpouzoglou et al. 2018;
Dimitriou et al. 2008; Douglas 2006; Simon
2008). Urban waste is released through wastewa-
ter canals and rivers that run through the city
carrying urban waste and urban agriculture runoff
into the periurban villages. While urban wastewa-
ter is considered an important irrigation source for
agriculture at the peripheries of the city, it also
causes declining quality of the groundwater of
adjacent periurban villages (Jampani et al. 2018;
Ullah et al. 2012). Without adequate provision of
sanitation and waste management infrastructure,
increasing population at the urban peripheries also
leads to an increased release of domestic waste in
local water bodies or on village wastelands
(Shivendra and Ramaraju 2015; Büsser et al.
2007). Association of periurban developments
with declining water quality is also found strongly
in postindustrial developed countries occurring
due to the landuse changes, increase in run-off
carrying more pollutants, and agriculture intensi-
cation (Tu et al. 2007; Gillham 2002).
Spatial Water Transfers
As cities grow, so do their appetites for water
resources. Urban water resources are constrained
by the high water demands of the large urban
population, the concretized landscape that limits
groundwater recharge and surface water storage,
and water pollution from waste disposal. In order
to meet its increasing water demands, the city
sources its water supply from water transfers
from the periurban areas. These transfers are car-
ried out in different ways. Constructing dams,
reservoirs, and freshwater canals over major
streams and rivers originally feeding the periph-
eral rural areas diverts water from the upstream
periurban villages to meet the increasing water
demands of the city (Mishra and Narain 2018;
Hommes and Boelens 2017; Parés et al. 2013).
The policy construction of the urban water prior-
ities against rural water demands legitimizes such
large scale resource transfers and reallocation.
Another form of water transfers to the city is
through the private informal water tanker markets
which have proliferated across many major pop-
ulous cities in developing countries. A nexus
between periurban agricultural borewell owners
and private tanker providers extract and transfer
subsidized agricultural water from the periurban
areas to meet urban residential and commercial
water demands (Packialakshmi et al. 2011;
Prakash 2014; Díaz-Caravantes and Wilder
2014). Weak regulatory mechanisms and the
involvement of rich farmers in this market make
it hard to contain this water extraction and selling
(Vij et al. 2019). This heavy water extraction
causes declining groundwater levels affecting
water access for periurban communities and
water-based livelihoods. In the context of many
countries of the global north, the increased con-
sumption of municipal water supply for ornamen-
tal lawns and swimming pools in the suburban
upper class residential areas have reduced avail-
ability of municipal water for both the urban and
periurban poor communities (Ranganathan and
Balazs 2015; Parés et al. 2013).
Periurban Water Access Outcomes
and Vulnerabilities
The various demographic, economic, and institu-
tional developments in the periurban context that
are brought about by the urbanization process
have an impact on the periurban water ecologies.
These in turn affect water availability and water
quality for the periurban community. This section
will discuss the various ways in which these trans-
forming water ecologies impact water insecurity,
health, socioeconomic inequalities, and local live-
lihoods. The focus will be more on the dominant
experiences of the developing countries where
urban expansion directly interacts with a dense
rural population touching every aspect of rural
life and resources.
Institutional Outcomes for Water Access
As periurban water resources are transferred or
diverted for core citys water demands, the peri-
urban community faces the burdens of reduced
water access and scarcity, particularly the rural
Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures 5
poor and slum population. For instance, as cities
divert increasing amounts of water from freshwa-
ter canals, water availability for irrigation is
reduced downstream of the city (Mishra and
Narain 2018; Hommes and Boelens 2017). Alter-
natively freshwater streams and rivers running
through the city collecting urban waste get
released into the periurban environment as waste-
water, thereby changing access to freshwater for
irrigation. In the case of water supply, the limited
mandate and nancial resources of the rural gov-
ernance systems and splintered provision of
municipal services are inadequate to meet the
water resource demands of the rapidly growing
periurban population (Britto et al. 2019; Groot
and Bayrak 2019, Wright-Contreras et al. 2017).
This splintered provision of municipal water sup-
ply may also be found in some cities of the global
north where poor settlement colonies have
emerged alongside or beyond elite gated settle-
ments (Ranganathan and Balazs 2015; Jepson and
Vandewalle 2016; Deda and Tsenkova 2006).
With rapidly increasing population and water con-
sumption on the one hand and declining local
water resources on the other, this public water
provision becomes increasingly scarce and
In response to this reduced and insecure water
access from the traditional sources and rural pub-
lic water provision, periurban communities resort
to a myriad of alternate or new institutional
arrangements for water access (Allen 2010). In
many highly urbanized countries of the global
north, new institutional arrangements may emerge
through formal policy about regulating or control-
ling urban sprawl (Buxton 2014; Gillham 2002;
Couch et al. 2008). New suburban regimes and
administrations may emerge expressing more
authority and autonomy in metropolitan or
regional governance to affect policies and invest-
ments on urban infrastructure and resource distri-
bution (Hamel and Keil 2016). In many
developing countries where inadequate state
involvement in the periurban space leads to more
informal development, new conicts and cooper-
ation can emerge to enable or sustain better access
to limited resources and services (Roth et al. 2019;
Shrestha et al. 2018; Marston 2014). For instance,
this may be seen in the coalitions between rich
farmers and borewell owners of the periurban
areas, tanker owners, and real estate builders or
even the municipal water supply departments
(Ruet et al. 2007; Packialakshmi et al. 2011).
New power coalitions allow for exclusive capture
of a declining resource for a prot-making enter-
prise at the cost of easy water access for the larger
periurban community. Cooperation based on
social capital using identity groups such as caste
and tribal communities to access irrigation water
also emerges more strongly (Narain et al. 2019;
Shrestha et al. 2018). New technologies and strat-
egies negotiated based on local norms and rights
emerge in response to the reduced water access.
Similarly in the case of household water sup-
ply, alternate water sources and institutional
mechanisms can range across formal and informal
private, community, public, and hybrid arrange-
ments (Allen 2010; Allen et al. 2017;
Ranganathan and Balazs 2015; Mapunda et al.
2018). Periurban water access, particularly in the
poor rural and slum settlement clusters, is thus
characterized by a multiplicity of water sources
and associated institutional arrangements each
with its own burdens of cost, exibility of pay-
ments, actual and perceived quality, and physical
ease of access. Household water access thus
entails signicant choices, decision making, and
trade-offs between different types of risks for the
periurban communities (Nastiti et al. 2017; Orgill
et al. 2013; Ezenwaji et al. 2016; Jimenez-Redal
et al. 2014; Jeuland et al. 2016). For instance,
informal water suppliers and markets, while hav-
ing a wide community reach in lling the gaps in
public water supply, tend to have poor nancial
and organizational capacities and can entail sig-
nicant nancial costs and mobilization of social
capital for access (Cain 2018; Alba et al. 2019).
Inequality in Access
Conditions of stressed local water resources, com-
plex jurisdiction, and constrained public supply of
water produce a space ripe for the sprouting of a
complex of informal and private institutions to ll
the demand-supply gap created by the resource
stress (Peloso and Morinville 2014; Sen et al.
2019). Private tanker supplies and commercial
6 Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures
treated bottled water plants are predominant
examples of these emerging forms of water insti-
tutions. However, many of these emerging private
supply mechanisms are also commercial and
therefore entail costs for accessing water. The
limited capacity of poor households to endlessly
spend on purchasing water creates unsustainable
and insecure water access for poor periurban con-
sumers(Allen et al. 2006; Fonjong and Fokum
2017; Sen et al. 2019). On the other hand benets
of the market accrue to the wealthy and powerful
who are able to afford access to individual or
private water sources in order to sell water for
prots (Vij et al. 2019; Sen et al. 2019; Bartels
et al. 2018).
Inequalities in water access can occur at differ-
ent levels. There are inequalities in water access
between the city and the periurban areas as
evidenced by the spatial water transfers from peri-
urban areas to the city or vice versa. Within the
periurban areas, there is inequality between the
new urban developments such as the elite residen-
tial estates and the periurban village and lower
class settlements (Wright-Contreras et al. 2017;
Karpouzoglou et al. 2018. This is also relevant for
the contexts of the new mixed periurban develop-
ments in cities of the global north where inequal-
ities in water access exist based on class, race, and
immigrant status of periurban settlements
(Ranganathan and Balazs 2015, Jepson and
Vandewalle 2016, Deda and Tsenkova 2006). In
many developing countries where the city grows
into densely populated rural areas, periurban pro-
cesses also lead to inequalities within the villages
between those who are able to benet from the
urbanization process and others who become
more vulnerable to the changes. These tend to be
aligned with traditional social hierarchies based
on class sections and social groups (Sen et al.
2019; Rusca and Schwartz 2018). For instance,
rich farmers with access to deep borewells are able
to secure water while poorer households and slum
residents have to depend on common sources or
informal markets. Institutional arrangements that
depend on new power coalitions and identity-
based social capital while being innovative in
ensuring water access in the face of emerging
scarcities can also be exclusionary for some. As
a result traditional socioeconomic disparities in
the social fabric can be further sustained and
even deepened in the responses to water scarcity.
Disparate access to nancial and social capital
thus creates inequalities in water access between
different economic classes of households within
the periurban space. Afuent communities and
elite residential colonies are able to mobilize
their nancial and social capital to gain secure
access to infrastructure and water, while poorer
communities of periurban villages do not receive
comparable access to secure water supply. This
creates fragmented landscapes and infrastruc-
tural archipelagoeswithin the periurban space
(Wright-Contreras et al. 2017; Karpouzoglou
et al. 2018; Bakker 2003; Rusca and Schwartz
2018). With the deteriorating local water
resources, low governance capacities and the con-
sequent increase in privatization and commercial-
ization of water in the periurban areas have
enhanced the cost burdens of water and therefore
the water insecurities for poor households (Sen
et al. 2019; Karpouzoglou et al. 2018). To com-
pensate for the lack of affordability, poor house-
holds therefore often have to make trade-offs with
other water sources and their related resource
burdens such as water quality or physical burdens
of water collection.
Physical Burdens and Health Impacts
Water quality is a major concern in periurban
areas. These create signicant physical burdens
of water collection and health impacts on the for
the periurban communities, particularly the poor
households. Households that are unable to afford
priced treated water tend to make a trade-off
towards low cost common public water sources.
Most low cost public water supply is through
common sources such as public standpipes
located outside of the household premises. These
entail the physical burdens of travelling a signi-
cant distance, time to travel and wait in queues for
water collection, and physically carrying large
quantum of water (Prakash and Singh 2012).
These physical burdens of water collection are
largely borne by women in the household making
the burdens of household water security gendered.
Physical burdens and health related vulnerabilities
Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures 7
emanating from water access issues are important
risks taken into consideration for household
choices and compulsions with regard to decisions
on water sources used to attain household water
security for periurban communities.
Accessing low cost common water sources for
the poor households also comes with a trade-off of
unreliable water quality (Ezenwaji et al. 2016;
Groot and Bayrak 2019). Even priced informal
water markets such as unregulated
non-standardized water treatment plants and
tankers provide water supply of unreliable quality.
Consumption of poor quality untreated water
leads to water borne diseases (Narain 2012).
Insufcient water access for sanitation and per-
sonal hygiene lead to water washed diseases
among the periurban community. Wastewater is
considered a crucial resource for irrigation in the
downstream periurban villages. However, waste-
water agriculture also comes with associated
health impacts for the farmers engaged in
it. Farming in standing untreated wastewater in
the elds leads to skin rashes and parasitic infec-
tions for the farm labor (Narain 2012). In addition,
the toxins, heavy metals, and other domestic and
industrial waste get accumulated in the food crop
which can have adverse health impacts on con-
sumption (Ullah et al. 2012). Since water from the
wastewater channels also seep into the groundwa-
ter, it can affect the water quality of household
borewell water used for domestic or cooking pur-
poses. These can cause water borne diseases and
parasitic stomach infections.
Shifting Livelihoods
Declining water availability and quality adversely
affects traditional water based livelihoods such as
agriculture and sheries (Butsch and Heinkel
2020). Chemical and industrial pollution of sur-
face water reduces the aquaculture potential and
agriculture land quality as well as contaminant
accumulation in sh and crops. However, waste-
water that is predominantly affected by domestic
and organic waste is also considered as benecial
for wastewater sheries and agriculture
(Mukherjee 2012; Miller and Atanda 2011). On
the other hand water depletion and drying up of
water sources leads to reduced availability and
increasing costs of water for water-based liveli-
hoods and thereby reduces their productivity and
protability. Distressed livelihoods lead to com-
munities being compelled to diversify occupa-
tions, seek new employment options in urban
sectors, and gradual decline in these traditional
This decline in land and water based traditional
rural livelihoods further eases the transfer of land
and water resources to urban and industrial uses.
For instance, as farmers lose easy and low cost
access to water for irrigation, the protability of
agriculture reduces, which leads farmers to sell
their land for increasing land values of periurban
areas. Some farmers, who can afford deep
borewells and can continue to access water, shift
to the water-selling business as this fetches signif-
icantly higher prots than agriculture (Vij et al.
2019). Poor marginal farmers tend to be pushed
into agricultural and urban labor. Similarly, as
periurban agriculture declines, the agriculture
labor also shifts towards urban and industrial
labor. Periurban areas thus offer not only aspects
of livelihoods marginalization but also opportuni-
ties. Proximity to the city provides a lucrative
market for goods and services from agriculture
and allied livelihoods such as aquaculture and
livestock. New opportunities for employment
and businesses also emerge. However, the liveli-
hood marginalities and opportunities are not
equally distributed (Sen 2016). Marginal farmers,
landless laborers, and women face increased
marginalities from the periurban livelihood shifts,
whereas the rich and powerful communities such
as large landowners are able to capitalize on these
changes and utilize it for increased capital
Recognizing and Centering the Margins
for Sustainable Urban Water Futures
The discussion thus far has elaborated on the
various water resource and access vulnerabilities
of the periurban space that emanate from the
urbanization processes occurring beyond the
boundaries of the city at the fringes of the urban
core. The processes of urban expansion and
8 Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures
periurban development vary signicantly by local
contexts of different countries and cities based on
governance structures, geography, hydrology, his-
tory, and social structures. As a result, different
types and levels of the outcomes discussed in this
chapter may manifest in different contexts. Yet, in
recent decades of increased globalization of cap-
ital and labor, many commonalities are develop-
ing now between historically dissimilar, or even
contrasting, contexts and patterns of urbanization
and periurban development. Heterogeneity and
informality have become common features of
periurban developments not only across many
developing countries, but more recently also for
many cities in developed countries (Hamel and
Keil 2016). Periurban spaces are deeply integrated
with the urban milieu and thereby simulta-
neously sustained and imperiled by the urban
dynamics(Freidberg 2001). While the urbaniza-
tion process creates both marginalities as well as
opportunities, the capitalization of these opportu-
nities often creates exclusions for some and prots
for others. In the rural-urban binaries on which
policy and planning is based often misses the
much needed focus on the periurban areas as a
particularly vulnerable and rapidly transforming
region that does not identify perfectly with either
the rural or the urban problem space.
Spatial transfers of water resources, land use
changes to urban and industrial purposes, and ease
of urban expansion at the cost of periurban water
ecologies are some of the ways in which the
periurban resource space sustains the resource
demands of a growing city. However, the periph-
eries of today are the cities of tomorrow and
therefore unsustainable development of the peri-
urban areas will result in unsustainable urban
resource futures as well. Periurban resource vul-
nerabilities and marginalities not only affect a
large and growing population that migrates and
settles in these areas for accessing the city and its
labor demands, but also translate into
marginalities of future cities. Some recent studies
have engaged with pathways and responses of
the affected and marginalized communities to the
resources vulnerabilities and exclusions of the
periurban space. The new hybrid informal institu-
tions that emerge in response to the gaps in
resource provision are considered as active
responses of the community to respond to
resource scarcity. There are many proponents for
greater recognition and support for these alternate
bottom-up institutional frameworks of resource
access that challenge dominant state or commer-
cial institutions (Allen et al. 2017; Schramm and
Wright-Contreras 2017). Cases of local resis-
tances and conict against resource appropriation
by new power coalitions have been documented,
bringing together networks of civil society and
affected local community (Roth et al. 2019).
Such actor alliances and networks help build plat-
forms for new coalitions of multiple-stakeholders
against dominant development paradigms and
seeking more alternate pathways for sustainable
futures (Scoones et al. 2020; Narain et al. 2020).
Formal regulation of urban sprawl through gov-
ernment policies has also been practiced in many
countries of global north. Alternate pathways for
sustainable periurban futures are much needed.
Dominant development pathways have created
unequal power relations between the city and its
peripheries and the reciprocal ows between the
city and the periurban areas have provided means
for resource appropriation and degradation. The
margins need to be thus recognized and centered
in urban planning, metropolitan area planning,
and urban policy.
Urban and periurban development has been iden-
tied by the Global Sustainable Development
Report 2019 as one of the six entry points for
progress across all the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs). Supporting positive economic,
social, and environmental links between urban,
periurban, and rural areas is identied as one of
the targets of the SDG 11 for Sustainable Cities.
These links are considered essential for more bal-
anced regional development to reduce the gaping
inequalities between binaries of urban and rural
areas. However, in a neoliberal urban-growth cen-
tric economic paradigm where cities form the
heart of global and national capital, and policy,
the urban-rural linkages can distribute ows and
Periurban Water: Recognizing the Margins for Sustainable Urban Water Futures 9
resources in favor of urban centers often at the
cost of rural areas and their resources. In order to
achieve targets of SDG 6 to ensure access to safe
water for all, the periurban water marginalities call
for particular recognition given that the specic
character of this region lacks focus in rural-urban
binaries in planning and policy. Declining water
quality, increasing commercialization of water,
deepening inequalities in water access, and dete-
riorating water ecologies of the periurban space
signicantly challenge the SDG 6 targets of safe,
affordable, and equal water access (target 6.1) and
protected water related ecologies (target 6.6).
Rampant and unregulated efuent release from
polluting industries located in periurban spaces
challenge SDG 6 targets of reducing pollution
and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals
and materials in water sources (target 6.3). Inno-
vative bottom-up institutions, participatory col-
lective management, new citizen-activist-civil
society-state coalitions against dominant growth
paradigms and power centers, stronger metropol-
itan governance, and greater focus in policy can
offer alternate pathways towards sustainability of
the periurban space.
............ ..
Acceptability of Alternative Water Sources
Cities of the Future and Water
Urban Water Governance and Sustainability
Water and Gender Issues
Water Provision and Poverty
Water Related Ecosystems
Acknowledgments This article is an outcome of research
conducted under the project H2O-T2S in Urban Fringe
Areas,nancially supported by the Belmont Forum and
NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Transforma-
tions to Sustainability, which is co-funded by the Interna-
tional Science Council and the European Commission
through Horizon 2020. The article also gains deeper insight
from the authors longer term engagement with periurban
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