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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Production in Aquatic Peri-Urban Systems in South East Asian

A research project of the Department of Geography.


PAPUSSA is a collaborative research project between European and Asian partners funded by the European Union seeking to better understand the importance and nature of aquatic food production that occurs in and around some of the major cities of Southeast Asia. The project, which started in January 2003, will continue for three years and is working with partners in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Bangkok, Thailand.

Narrow, disciplinary studies, whilst informative in terms of technical issues, have failed to address the complex issues that will determine the future of such peri-urban aquatic food production systems (PAFPS). The project has an interdisciplinary approach in which the production and livelihood impacts of PAFPS will be evaluated, consequences for health and hygiene assessed and their importance within the larger framework of urban and institutional development investigated. Working closely with selected stakeholders pilot studies to improve these systems will then be initiated and assessed.

What are peri-urban aquatic food production systems and why are they important?

Aquatic food products are important in the diets of people of the region and include a variety of vegetables, fish and other animals. The origins of farming aquatic animals in the Region are quite likely to be urban since until recently most rural areas of Asia where people value fish as food had access to abundant natural stocks.

Urbanisation in SE Asia is occurring most rapidly in larger cities typically situated on the floodplains of large rivers. Limited drainage infrastructure and formal sanitation serving such cities, together with the extraction of fill from surrounding areas for construction and flood defences has frequently resulted in peri-urban wetlands that become both de facto waste treatment and food production systems. Such peri-urban wetlands have been important food production centres and appear to have enduring importance to the livelihoods of poor people. By the same token these peri-urban lagoons, canals and ponds commonly provide the only accessible means of disposing of human excreta and therefore have much broader importance to urban communities. Although attention has been drawn to the benefits of such wetlands, generally their value is unmeasured and impacts of contamination from wastes, changing access and urbanisation unknown.

Informed policy and management of peri-urban zones in Asia is handicapped by a lack of informed and balanced debate regarding how stakeholders value aquatic production systems in terms of public health risks, food availability and livelihoods. The lack of information about these systems contrasts with an extensive knowledge base on solid waste and wastewater reuse in agriculture.

The dynamic nature of peri-urban areas require scientists, planners and policy makers to deal with rapid and often destructive changes to PAFPS whilst attempting to meet the challenge of meeting basic needs.


Publications arising from the project: Rigg, Jonathan and Salamanca, Albert (2005) “The future of periurban aquatic food production systems in Southeast Asia”, Urban Agriculture Magazine 14: 20-23.


From the Department of Geography