In this article, You will read Rural-Urban Fringe – for UPSC (Settlement Geography – Geography Optional).

Rural-Urban Fringe

  • Urban sprawl is the horizontal expansion of the city which engulfs the surrounding landscape. It is the national process of urban growth. After the 2nd World War the urban growth along with the megacities especially along the major transportation axis connecting the city developed urban corridors which were linear physical growth of the city along the main arterial lines.
  • The suburban growth, industrial suburbs, and townships developed around the city occupying the rural landscape. Such developments have a rural landscape which is gradually giving way to urban land usage and is in the transitional stage with mixed land use with the spread of both urbanization and urbanism (physical growth of the city and cultural/pattern of lifestyle respectively)
  • In 1951 the American land economist H M Meyer for the first time defined rural-urban fringe as “the transition zone between the city and rural agriculture area where a mixed land use pattern having both rural and urban practices are located”.
  • Rural-Urban fringe refers to the interface zone between the purely urban industrial, urban commercial physical growth of the city and the absolute rural agrarian landscape with village panchayat system where new urban land usage is replacing the rural land use as well as the occupational pattern.
  • It is the area where the city meets the countryside. It is an area of transition from agriculture and other rural land use to urban use. Located well within the urban sphere of influence the fringe is characterized by a wide variety of land use including dormitory settlements, housing of middle-income commuters who work in the central urban area. Suburbanization takes place at the municipal boundary of the rural-urban fringe.
  • Many scholars have tried to highlight the variations in such similar cases. In 1958, Kurz and Fletcher have tried to establish the difference between fringe and urban areas. In 1961, Wissink in 1961, used the term fringe, suburb, and pseudo suburb.
  • The rural-urban fringe is a neglected zone as it falls beyond the administrative limits of the city. Many scholars call the fringe area by different names. Burgess calls it a ‘peripheral zone’, Census of India has used the term “Out Urban Area”. Some call it “Rural-Urban Continuum.
Rural-Urban Fringe  - UPSC

History of rural-urban fringe development:

  • The evolution of the term goes back to Vonthunen in 1826, the city is surrounded by a system of concentric belts of landuse. Others who have made a contribution are Jonason, Douglass, Mckenzie, Park, Burgess, Makaye, Christaller who devised Central Place Theory, Homer Hoyt, Mckenzie, Charles C Colby who have discussed the fringe in their own way.
  • In 1937, T.L Smith firstly used the term ‘urban fringe’ and said this area is outside the administrative limit.
    • In 1940, Salter discussed that this is an area where we find a mixture of landuse both urban and rural.
    • In 1945, Balk describes that fringe as an area of urbanization.
    • In 1962, Wehrwein calls it suburban development.
    • In 1960, Russwarm has discussed that this is a discontinuous area.
    • In 1962, G.A Wissink has given the name ‘An Area of great Differentiation.’
    • Some Indian Scholars as R.L Singh has called it as a rural land with urban phenomena. M.M.P Sinha has defined ‘rural-urban fringe in the real sense is a narrow zone with varying width outside the political boundaries of an urban unit which is neither urban nor rural in character.
  • There was widespread inner city development immediately post WW2. But this did not create enough housing units for all those who needed them.
  • Others were built on the edge of towns and cities.
  • Most of the residential growth is outwards into the suburbs. Population density is lower than that in the inner city, and the houses are usually larger as the land is cheaper.
  • As residential use started spreading to the suburbs, transportation network developed, increasing the connectivity of the suburbs to the inner city.
  • From the 1970s, out-of-town shopping centers took advantage of lower land prices and more space.
  • After that many companies moved their offices and factories to the edge of the urban area for similar reasons, where they could take advantage of better transport links as well.
  • From the late 1970s, many cities have lost population to counter-urbanization – people leaving the cities for a variety of reasons.
    • People want a better quality of life in quieter, cleaner rural surrounding
    • More people are willing and able to travel further to work
    • Relocation of businesses to places with better transport links and cheaper building costs
    • Flexible working and new technology have increased part-time home working.
    • Retired people leave the city where they once worked.
  • This has led to the smaller towns and villages in areas with excellent communication links to expand – a lot of ‘in-filling’ has taken place. In-filling is building in gaps within the village or town boundary (known as the village/town envelope).
Urban Fringe


  • Land use characteristic:
    • There is constantly changing pattern of land use.
    • Residential expansion is rapid.
    • Farms are small with intensive crop production.
    • Service and other public facilities are inadequate.
    • Science and business parks development.
    • Airport expansion.
    • Speculative building is common.
  • Social characteristic:
    • Segregation: Rural urban fringe also known as “Greenfield site“ (undeveloped sites outside the existing built up urban area) which are favoured by large firms seeking locations for new developments such as headquarters, offices, housing and industrial estates. So there is functional and social segregation of land use.
    • Selective Immigration: The rural urban fringe attracts middle class residents who form a small but powerful and economically important proportion of the city population. Service and other public facilities are inadequate in fringe region which lead to immigration.
    • Commuting: People living in fringe area commute daily to their place of work. This creates the dual problem of traffic congestion in the city, the city govt is faced with the task of providing transport service handling peak load.
Land use characteristic

Delimitation of rural urban fringe

Demarcation of the fringe areas is a real problem. Many scholars have given different views. The characteristics and functions differ among the cities. The scholars have considered many factors in their delimitation of the area. There are two methods of demarcation of rural-urban fringe.

  1. Empirical method
  2. Statistical method

Empirical method:

  • The empirical method is a very traditional method that implies that the continuous built-up area is a basis of delineation. Some of the scholars who have contributed are Smith (1937), Andrews (1942), M.W Rodehaver, W.T Martin (1957), S.W Blizzard and W.F Anderson (1962), D. Mukherjee (1963), Oosthwizen (1969), R.J Prayor, M.K Srivastava and Ujagir Singh . They have given their techniques of delimiting the fringe area. The following indices may be considered as a base point for the delimitation of the zone of the fringe belt.
    • Changes in land use
    • Changes in the built-up area
    • Occupational structure of the population
    • House types
    • Distribution of industrial and non-agricultural activities
    • Limit of essential services
    • The distribution of educational institutions.
  • Based on direct observation, generally 10-20 km from the municipal limits of the city taken to study the Rural Urban fringe.
  • The census of India has observed the following criteria:
    • Population density shall be less than 400 persons/km square
    • The decadal population growth rate should be 40% or more.
    • Sex ratio should be greater than 800 females per 1000 males (due to outmigration for work)
    • Outer limit of the city should have bus service or the local train service.
    • 50% or more male workers are involved in non agriculture occupations.

Statistical Method

  • Dr. M.M.P. Sinha in 1980 has applied statistical methods in the demarcation of the urban fringe. He has first tried to determine the influence area with the help of Isochrone. He has considered the word limit as (T) 100. The area outside is considered 0. The urban Index is found between 0 and 100 and values are given to the number of villages.
  • A correlation between all factors of the villages has been found out. Those villages have been excluded where the value is below +30 and -30. The mean value of other factors has been taken which is known as the scale of urbanity.
  • As we move away from the city the population density decreases. The sex ratio increases away from the city. This gives a positive correlation.
  • Some of the notable works in India is of R.L Singh on Varanasi Fringe, Harihar Singh of Kanpur Fringe, Ujagir Singh did a study of KAVAL cities, K.N Gopi of Hyderabad metropolitan fringe, MMP Sinha of Patna fringe, Sudesh Nangia of Delhi metropolitan fringe area, Hiralal on Bareilly fringe’.
  • Today it can be suitably be classified as
    • Inner fringe zone or area of convenience
    • Outer fringe zone or slowly progressive zone.

Types of Rural Urban Fringe

The rural-urban fringe is a dynamic zone. It changes its shape and limits with an increase in urban facilities. The fringe area can be placed in two groups.

  • Primary urban fringe – This belt touches the outer administrative limit of the city. After development, it witnesses rapid development of urban facilities and various activities. Andrews has named it urban fringe while the outlying adjacent zone is named Reinmann. Myres and Beegle call it ‘True fringe’ ‘Inner fringe’ by Whiteland.’ Inner fringe or urban-suburban fringe’ by MMP Sinha.
  • Secondary urban fringe – Secondary urban fringe is an area extending outside the primary urban fringe. It has primarily rural characteristics which have developed slowly. Urban functions are less.

Structure of Rural Urban fringe

  • Urban fringe: It is characterised by the sub urban growth, the urban corridor, housing colonies and the village panchayat which have turned into newly residential urban villages.
  • Rural fringe: It includes urban land usage like crematorium, sewage treatment plants, polluting industrial units, industrial slums and haphazard growth of urban commercial markets. Rural land use still prevails and occupational change is more perceptible than landscape change. This is garbage or dumping ground of city.
  • Urban shadow: This is the perspective area where fringe will expand and it is witnessing the rising pressure of land, there is influence of urbanisation and it is mostly characterised by market gardening. It is still rural in nature and land prices are sky rocketing.
  • Daily urban system: It is also called as commuter’s zone from where people commute to Rural Urban fringe for the sale, purchase, business and commerce with the city businessmen. There are functionally integrated villages which are suppliers to daily city demand.
  • City region: It is the largest possible area of urban influence.
Structure of Rural Urban fringe
Peri urban areas the rural urban region

Stages of growth of Rural Urban fringe

  • Rural stage: In this stage agriculture land use is predominantly in terms of intensive grain farming. Village panchayat and village culture dominate and urban influence is negligible.
  • Agricultural land use change: The influence of city has been arrived and agriculture has been transformed to meet the demand of the city. Market gardening products and dairy has replaced the intensive grain farming.
  • Occupational change: Agricultural labours and cultivators are turning into city workmen and working in tertiary/service sector. Due to high cost of land many agriculturists turn landless as agricultural land is required for city purpose.
  • Urban land use: Crematorium, sewage treatment plants, airport, bus station, industrial units, Small Township and suburbs develop over the region. Slum and squatter settlements also appear.
  • Urban village stage: Almost every part of rural landscape has been transformed into urban land use. Colonies, hypermarkets, marketing centres, wholesale markets develop. This stage is marked by unplanned and haphazard growth which brings urban miseries. Thus, immediate urban policy is required for redevelopment of the region. Ultimately with redevelopment plan the urban village mixes with main city.

Problems of Rural Urban fringe

  • Unplanned and haphazard growth.
  • Urban garbage and the dumping ground of city with land pollution and underground pollution.
  • Crematorium, sewage treatment plants
  • Slums and associated problems
  • The fringe area suffers concentration of land ownership, speculation on land, and rapidly rising land values.
  • Polluting industries are shifted to fringe areas
  • Crime and vandalism due to interaction of two interacting cultures since, urban temperament differs from rural.
  • Social psychological changes and social alignments are happening. Beliefs are broken and there are more disruptions in societies and families.
  • Lack of water supplies, no public sewage disposal, unplanned streets.
  • Outside the municipality limits, small towns and revenue villages lack administrative and financial infrastructure.
  • The fringe area served by poor public transport facilities.

Reason for development of rural urban fringe

  • It should be better visualised as Rural-Urban Continuum then Rural Urban Fringe zone.
  • Some of the driving forces of the development of the fringe areas can be outlined as follows.
    • Population Increase
    • Increased Income and wealth
    • Transportation and communication technologies
    • Increased investments in new infrastructure.
  • Growth of Rural Urban Fringe is basically due to external and internal factors
    • Internal factors: These factors encourage people to leave the city and settle outside.
      • Increasing cost of land rent due to paucity of space within the city.
      • Environmental degradation
      • Lack of residential houses.
      • Growing demand of land for functions that can’t be performed in the interior of towns.
    • External factors: These work as the pull factor
      • Commuting facility (developed transport)
      • Low cost of land
      • Free from municipal taxes
      • Environment stability
Beneficial development in the rural-urban fringe area:

The rural-urban fringe is characterized by a mixture of land uses, most of which require large areas of land.

  • Housing developments as urban sprawl continue
  • Science and business parks
  • Hypermarkets and superstores
  • Retail parks and out of town shopping centers
  • Office developments
  • Hotels and conference centers
  • Airport expansion
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sir one question is there…
discuss the parameter to understand the spatial distribution of indian agricultre and its regional desparity with suitable example
what should be the answer approach of the above question can you share ?


you can start by giving brief intro about agri situation in India with suitable data and drawing map
Environmental> climate (monsoon) , topography, Hydrology
Economical> employment and income varies between states and according to that farmers tend to apply suitable type of agri patter (North Eastern states>less developed>subsistence farming / North Western & southern states> developed states> Pb MH TN KT KR HR intensive farming)
Demography> over populated states (UP BH WB)>more land under farming
Administrative> Government Policies also affect the type of crop to be farmed (Rajsathan more millets / PB HR due to ground water level depletion govt is deviating to more water efficient crops )
Regional Disparity> will get covered in the above parameters if you explain it with suitable examples ( integrate regional disparity examples within the parameters) / or you can contrast agri between North v/s South dividing them in zones.

If any criticism please feel free. (so that I too get an opportunity tolearn)

Pankaj Mishra

what would be the criticism of above given question


what is delineation of urban fringe?

Raj Maurya

It means Method of Delimitation or Demarcation of Urban fringe.

Shivam Gaur

thank u so much…

Rejuta saha

Sir how megalopolis and rural urban fringe overlap?


Is there a better explanation for statistical technique by M. M. P. Sinha of deliniation of rural urban fringe ?