1. What are peri-urban areas and what exactly is a peri-urban interface?
Peri urban areas are those transition and/or interaction zones where urban and rural activities are juxtaposed and landscape features are subject to rapid modifications, induced by anthropogenic activity. These critical areas of land cover change, lead to transformations in the hydrological, ecological, geomorphological and socioeconomic systems that have been neglected at the rural and urban interface.
A peri-urban interface is a territory of transition. Spatially located on the urban periphery, it is a byproduct of increased urbanisation. Constant interaction between urban and rural activities transforms land use, environment and local culture, impacting the ecology of cities.
2. Why are peri-urban areas a threat to humans?
Peri-urban areas on the fringes of most cities in developing countries, like India are witnessing rapid and unsystematic growth. At the same time, in response to increased demand for food, traditional agricultural practices in these settings have been supplemented by highly intensified, industrial-style production units. This is resulting in a poorly guarded human-animal-environment interface that is a highly conducive setting for the emergence and spread of zoonoses. This phenomenon creates severe problems in terms of infrastructure delivery, resulting in inheritance of physical underdevelopment. In comparison to the enormous growth and environmental stress which these peri-urban areas absorb, by virtue of their spatial adjacency to city proper, their own conditions remain dismal and are marked by lack of identity and proper planning and management in governance, finance and infrastructure delivery.
3. What is the connect beween peri-urban settings and zoonoses?
In developing countries, cities are rapidly expanding, and urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) has an important role in feeding a growing urban population. However, UPA carries risks of zoonotic disease transmission. The degradation of natural resources, temporary housing, inadequate water supplies, hazardous conditions and dense concentrations of people in peri-urban areas exacerbate the potential for infectious diseases. Some of the zoonotic diseases affecting populations living in urban and peri-urban areas are brucellosis, GI infections, Mycobacterium bovis tuberculosis and Taenia solium cycticercosis.
4. What is the link between agriculture and high density populations with respect to peri urban settings?
Formal and informal livestock-based food production is an important contributor to food and nutritional security in rapidly growing and unplanned settings of urban India. Peri-urban areas form a link between agriculture and high density populations in urban areas. Agriculture intensification thus poses significant public health risks, such as potential for zoonotic disease transmission, emergence of new diseases and overuse of veterinary antibiotics.
5. What is meant by peri-urban livestock farming?
6. How do dairy farms become hot spots for disease in peri-urban settings?
Small holder dairy farming are typical to peri-urban agricultue. They suffer from lack of support and quality control of dairy farming. The situation is further compounded with an absence of an organised system of farm inspection and screening of animals for disease. As a result, the increasing close contact between animals and humans in both work and living environments contribute towards creating hot spots for zoonotic disease transmission in addition to other health hazards associated with food safety, water and sanitation related diseases. The problem is compounded by high consumer demand for local and affordable food, lax food safety measures, sometimes inappropriate policies and low level of awareness and knowledge of disease transmission risks among farmers and consumers. This occupational human-animal interface poses important risks to workers, animals and communities, in addition to productivity and local economies.
7. How does antibiotic use threaten the peri-urban ecosystem?
While agriculture intensification may increase total food production to close the nutritional gap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food produced. However, this system poses significant public health risks. The risk of disease transmission and evolution of pathogens increases as large numbers of animals are concentrated in housing units. The necessity to treat disease results in extensive veterinary antibiotic use, which contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance and affects the ability to treat human infections.
8. How do women get negatively impacted in peri-urban settings?
In developing countries, women are closely involved with cattle rearing, especially in small holder farms. They have an important role in feeding cattle, cleaning sheds, looking after sick animals and processing and preparing dairy products. Often there is a disconnect between access to cattle assets, ownership and control. With men mostly taking decisions regarding treatment and purchase of inputs, women’s role in knowledge management, especially dissemination of animal health information and services is minimal. Apart from enhanced awareness, initiatives like promoting women-to-women extension services will help reduce some of this gap.
9. How should a country’s policy framework be designed to minimise hazards in peri-urban settings?
Equal emphasis must be given to rural and urban policies with stronger intersectoral collaboration between health-animal husbandry-agriculture-environment ministries, better surveillance (disease) and disease reporting mechanisms.
Peri-urban spaces are usually cropped out from the responsibility frame of civic authorities and are therefore in a state of neglect. Systemic weaknesses and limited evidence to inform policy makes them even more vulnerable. This needs to change. A new focus on healthy peri-urban ecosystems will provide an urgently needed momentum and mechanisms to guide policy and build local capacity in integrating public health and livestock health within urban planning and social development.
10. Which are the agencies that are working in the peri-urban domain in India?
11. Do peri-urban fringes have any scope to impact positive development?
Peri-urban fringes need special attention, especially since they will transform into tomorrow’s urban areas. This situation calls for in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in these peri-urban spaces. There is need to identify areas of innovation that will help them make the transition successfully and in ways that make them self-sustaining.