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University collaborates on joint UK-India research project

A joint UK-India research project involving University of Gloucestershire has concluded that suburban communities in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania have a poorer quality of life than people living in urban and rural areas as their countries develop.

Professor Kenny Lynch, Professor of Development and Community within the University’s School of Natural and Social Sciences, collaborated on the new study with academic colleagues from Rothamsted Research, Bangor University, Leeds University and the University of Hyderabad, India.

The research was funded through a joint UK-India project supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the India Council for Social Science Research and National Research Chairs programme in South Africa.

The study – published in Nature Sustainability – compared factors such as access to food, housing and services for people living in different areas of developing countries, from urban to the most remote rural communities.

The research found that people living in suburban (also known as peri-urban) communities in developing countries suffered the worst of both worlds with regards to infrastructure and delivery of services.

A peri-urban area near Hyderabad, India, where there is infrastructure available to supply water but the area has not yet been connected to the piped water system; top image, two neighbourhoods looking up a stream near Freetown, Sierra Leone

Not only do suburban communities lack the access to natural resources to build infrastructure found in rural areas, for instance, they suffer from a lack of investment in services and infrastructure compared with more heavily populated urban areas because it is not considered economically viable.

Communities in suburban areas are also impacted when urban areas expand on to land used previously for small scale agriculture.

Professor Lynch said: “The world’s urban population will continue to grow, leading to an increasingly urbanised planet, often resulting in urban expansion, as cities extend outwards incorporating land around them. This expansion of cities is especially rapid in developing countries in Asia and Africa.

“Our research supports previous studies that found that child health in East Africa is lowest in those communities living between the city and countryside, whilst a study in South Africa found that around two-thirds of urban and rural citizens report that their quality of life had improved over the last five years, but only half of respondents reported such improvement in peri-urban zones.”

The study concludes that urban and rural planners, designers and architects should be working together to act quickly to prevent lower quality of life of the people living in suburban communities in developing countries.