DBT FUNDED PROJECT : The Rural-Urban Interface of Bangalore: A Space of Transitions in Agriculture, Economics, and Society


Urbanisation is a contemporary global trend resulting from population growth and migration in search for job opportunities, better education, infrastructure, and security. It raises the concentrated demand for food, energy, and construction materials at specific locations and leads to the establishment of a rural-urban gradient with targeted flows of basic natural and human resources reflecting major changes in ecosystem services. In developing countries the urban population is projected to double by 2030; in this process, cities may eventually occupy an area equivalent to 7% of the world's arable land, compared with 3% today (Angel et al., 2005).

Megacities, urban conglomerations with a population of more than 10 million inhabitants, represent the most advanced state of urbanisation. Their effects on surrounding agro ecosystems and even at the global ecological scale (Seto et al., 2013) are evident in many Asian cities such as Beijing and Jakarta, but also in rapidly growing Indian cities such as Mumbai and Bangalore. In the Global South, megacities are growing especially rapidly (Sorensen and Okata, 2010). Three of the world’s 19 cities with more than 10 million inhabitants are located in India (Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata), and Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai are likely to pass this threshold in the near future (Taubenböck et al., 2008).

Bangalore has been the fastest-growing Indian city over the last 40 years (Narayana, 2011). Its population rose from 0.8 million in 1951 to 9.5 million in 2011 (Government of India, 2011). The Greater Bangalore City Corporation, an administrative entity, was created in 2006 and currently covers an area of 741 km2. Bangalore is embedded in an agricultural landscape that has evolved over thousands of years and continues to make a vital contribution to feeding the city's population. As Bangalore continues to grow, multiple transition processes from rural to urban land use and lifestyles are taking place around it. These processes, that elsewhere took decades or even centuries to unfold, are occurring with unique rapidity as Bangalore approaches the 'megacity' status. Bangalore already exhibits a number of qualitative characteristics of megacities and frequently observed similarities, such as rapid expansion, suburbanisation, ecological and infrastructural overloads, and uncontrolled, heterogeneous land use mosaics (Kraas and Mertins, 2014).

The dependence of cities on their surrounding ecosystems has long been neglected and little research has explicitly addressed the changes in agricultural land use and agricultural households associated with urban expansion and their interactions with surrounding natural ecosystems (Elmqvist et al., 2013; McDonald et al., 2013; Seto et al., 2013). Agricultural land use systems everywhere reflect a millennia-old history of transitions in the use of land, water, labour, and capital, the four critical resources on which all production systems depend. We refer to the rural-urban interface as the area stretched out between natural and rural landscapes and entirely human-shaped cities, with multiple gradients in physical, ecological, and social conditions. In this interface different types of transformations emerge, driven by human decisions on resources use, livelihood strategies, and public policies.

In the proposed projects Bangalore was chosen as a study region for the spatially explicit, real-time observation, and analysis of changes in agriculture associated with urban expansion and their interactions with surrounding ecosystems. In this context we can build on a number of existing studies on local agriculture and ecosystems (D’Souza and Nagendra, 2011; Nagendra et al., 2012; Sudhira and Nagendra, 2013), economic and social conditions (Sudhira et al., 2007; Balachandra and Reddy, 2013; Haritas, 2013), city planning (Government of Karnataka, 2007; Ramachandra et al., 2012), and related politics (Nair, 2005; Benjamin, 2008; Benjamin and Raman, 2011). The interdisciplinary approach followed by this package of Indian research proposals, however, is unique, not only in integrating a wide range of scientific disciplines and various research institutions, but also bybuilding on an intensive collaboration with scientists of two German universities in a total of 13 projects. Together with 12 German projects, submitted for funding under the umbrella of FOR2432to the German Science Foundation (DFG) acceptance of this project package by DBT will allow to establish a widely visible research focus and strengthen the position of Indian science in the international arena (Joseph and Robinson, 2014).