7. Governance and public policy challenges in addressing periurban water security

Learning objectives

  • understand why periurban spaces can be difficult to target in terms of improving water access;
  • familiarize yourself with the potential of intervention approaches to address these issues.

Key Concepts

public policy, governance


This session familiarizes participants with the public policy and governance challenges in addressing periurban water security and also seeks to draw upon approaches that have been used to address these issues. Issues discussed relate to overlapping jurisdictions between rural and urban authorities, lack of institutional cover and lack of secure tenure in periurban settlements. Some approaches to Participatory Action Planning and Action research are described. Approaches for mobilizing civil society and improving the interface between the state and water users are described.

The periurban interface has been described as a ‘space crying out for attention’ (Brook and Purushothoman et al., 2003: 134). Given the unique characteristics of the periurban interface as described above, developing policy options for sustainable periurban settlements is a challenging task indeed. Scholars and researchers of the periurban interface make several suggestions for management of periurban settlements. Policy prescriptions focus on improving the access of periurban dwellers to a wide range of assets, improving transportation and connectivity, involving both rural and urban governments at the local level, and most importantly, overcoming the rural urban dichotomy in planning for development. Given the huge diversity in periurban settings, a strong case is made for a decentralized approach that is driven by local demands and priorities in which both urban and rural specialists need to work with each other. It is argued that this requires the straddling of the rural-urban divide, that has been normally ignored by policy-makers (Tacoli, 2003).

Given the patterns of flows of goods and services between rural areas and urban centres, there are implications for patterns of control over resources. Households who stay behind in rural areas often have little say in the management of local resources as control remains with the migrant members (Tacoli, 1998). This is particularly the case for women although it is also mediated by a range of factors such as culturally-specific gender roles and relations, gender divisions of labor within households, land tenure and women’s workloads. It is argued that this should be taken into account when targeting extension messages in periurban settlements, so that assumptions are not made about who controls resources.

Tacoli (1998) argues that while rural and urban relations should be seen as mutually reinforcing, generalising on the nature of rural-urban interactions across different locations and in terms of how they affect different groups must be avoided; interventions need to be tailored to the specific context of each urban centre and its surrounds. The variations in the nature and scale of rural-urban interactions and livelihood patterns both between and within different locations underline the necessity to tailor policies to local circumstances and to the specific needs and priorities of different groups, especially the poor and vulnerable ones.

Allen (2003) argues that while examining policies and strategies that affect the periurban interface, it is necessary to take a broader perspective, considering not only policies that have more immediate impacts on periurban areas but also those which affect a variety of flows between rural and urban areas over a longer term. Environmental planning and management approaches to urban, rural and regional planning already present many of the methods that need to be applied in environmental planning and management of the periurban interface; however, work still needs to be done in the consolidation and application of a specific approach that links these methods into a coherent system.

Discussion Questions

  • How would you improve the governance of periurban spaces?
  • How can governance focus on achieving water security?

Key Readings

Key Readings

  • Simon, D. 2008. Urban-Environments. Issues on the periurban fringe. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol.33, pp.167-185.

Further Readings

Further Readings

  • Shatkin, G., 2007. Global cities of the South. Emerging perspectives on growth and inequality. Cities, 24 (1), 1–16.
  • Simon, D. 2008. Urban-Environments. Issues on the periurban fringe. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol.33, pp.167-185.
  • Randhawa, P. and Marshall, F. 2014. Policy transformations and translations. Lessons for sustainable water management in peri-urban Delhi, India.  Environment and Planning 32 (1): 93-106
  • Allen, A. 2003. Environmental planning and management of the periurban interface.  Environment & Urbanization, 15(1):  135-147.

Other related International Waters Lessons and Submobules

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