Shaping Development and Sustainability in Peri-Urban Environments

In the 1950’s only about 30% of the world’s population were urban dwellers and by 2050 over 66% of the world population will be urban with nearly 90% of that increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. Today large cities are concentrated in the global South, and the fastest-growing agglomerations are medium sized cities and cities with 500,000 to 1 million inhabitants located in Asia and Africa.

While urban living is generally associated with higher levels of literacy and education, improved and better access to services and health and greater opportunities for jobs and cultural participation, rapid and unplanned urban and peri-urban growth threatens sustainable development. The rural-urban continuum or the peri-urban space is defined as “multi-dimensional, dynamic, interactive and transformative” and poor planning and management in these zones will lead to rising and inequitable investments in infrastructure, growing inequitable societies, loss of productive land, water, energy and food insecurity, poor services, ecosystem deterioration, pollution and loss of livelihoods.

Local challenges of rapid urbanisation

South African cities are facing similar local challenges of rapid urbanisation with 60% of its population currently urbanised and a 70% prediction by 2030. In South Africa, development has not kept pace with the needs of the people, environment and economics.  The National Development Plan (2011) states that many of SA’s challenges are not as a result of a lack of policy but due to insufficient institutional capacity, implementation instruments, co-ordination and planning. Amongst other things, the NDP report calls for new spatial norms and standards to deal with urbanisation and informal areas, interventions to ensure environmental sustainability and resilience, mechanisms which would make markets work more effectively for the poor supporting rural and urban livelihoods and reforms to current planning for improved co-ordination.

Peri-urban conference

In July 2014, the Australian Water Association together with the University of Western Australia hosted The 1st International conference Peri-urban conference in Sydney was hosted by the Australian Water association and the University of Western Australia in 2014. It was considered the first conference of a trans-disciplinary nature that focused on critical issues such as ecosystems, water, energy, land, society, economics and institutions that are impacted by the inevitable drift of cities into peri-urban areas. The conference was considered a success and closed with the “Sydney Declaration: Planning for Sustainability of Expanding Cities”.

The Water Research Commission and the Water Institute of Southern Africa is happy to host Peri-Urban 2017, the second International conference to the continent of Africa. The conference will be supported by the Water Innovations Division of WISA.