Peri-urban areas on the fringes of cities in India have witnessed rapid and unsystematic growth in recent years. In response to increased demand for food, traditional agricultural practices have been supplemented by highly intensified, industrial-style production units, often in peri-urban areas. Furthermore, small holder dairy farming, typical of peri-urban ecosystems, suffer from lack of support and quality control of dairy farming as well as the absence of an organised system of farm inspection or screening of animals for disease. Agricultural intensification in these settings poses significant public health risks, including the potential for zoonotic disease transmission, emergence of new diseases, and the overuse of veterinary antibiotics, which contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance in pathogens affecting humans and animals.
Currently, one out of every six people on the earth’s surface lives in India, with a population projected to grow to 1.72 billion by 2060. Peri-urban spaces are usually excluded from the vision and priority of civic authorities. Systemic weaknesses and limited evidence to inform policy makes them even more vulnerable. A new focus on healthy peri-urban ecosystems is urgently needed to provide momentum and mechanism to guide policy and build local capacity in integrating public health and livestock health within urban planning and social development.
So far, interventions have been mostly designed and targeted towards one sector in isolation. This complexity requires a more in-depth understanding from both human and animal health perspective, while recognising the EcoHealth context of both. The “India Research Initiative on Peri-Urban Health” hopes to look at the situation more closely, putting on the table a set of evidence-based recommendations that emerge from study findings and interactions across a healthy choice of locations that includes Ludhiana in the state of Punjab, Guwahati in Assam, Bangaluru in Karnataka and Udaipur in Rajasthan.