Rural-Urban Fringe

R. J. Pryor gave the concept of rural-urban fringe in the year 1968. He observed that the characteristics of city do not disappear suddenly at the municipal boundary but slowly fade away outwards from the city. Thus, he arrived at the concept of rural-urban fringe.

Definition of Rural-Urban Fringe

  • It is the zone of transition between built-up area of the city and its rural umland or hinterland.
  • Blizzard and Anderson define it as the area with both rural and urban characteristics. Further, the full urban services stop in the fringe.
  • It is an zone of mixed land use, culture, language, dresses and demographic characteristics.
  • The fringe starts from the point where agricultural land use appear while moving outwards from the city.
  • It stops where where majority of urban characteristics disappear and only very small proportion of land is put to urban use. For delineation of umland, see Methods of Demarcation of Umland.

Structure of Rural-Urban Fringe

Fig. 1: Structure of Rural-Urban Fringe

Based on land use, the rural-urban fringe can be broadly divided in to four zones as following (see Fig. 1).

  1. Inner Fringe

    • It is also known as primary fringe. This zone has the maximum urban characteristics in the fringe. It is almost like an urban area and contains the newly built-up large real-estate colonies e.g. Gurgaon and Noida. It is changing fast into a complete city.
  2. Outer Fringe

    • This zone is also known as secondary fringe. It is dominated by rural land use but urban activities or land-use is increasing in this area. It contains large airports, race courses, factories, scattered housing complexes and slums.
  3. Urban Shadow

    • This area is under the shadow of growing metropolis. It is the zone of intensive agriculture and horticulture. It faces the continuous pressure from city for land use change. The urban activities is continuously displacing the rural activities in this zone.
  4. Commuter Zone

    • Commuters are the people who travel to and from the city, everyday. They live in the outermost zone of urban fringe. These generally include the affluent families who can afford the cost of commuting. They build large homes in and outside the fringe due to over-crowding of the city.

Characteristic of Rural-Urban Fringe

Rural-urban fringe has certain specific feature in term of land use and social structure. These characteristics are as following.

  1. It is the zone of large government or private establishments which need large pieces of land for their operation. The price of land is lower in the fringe areas of the city. Therefore, it is easier and cheaper to establish airports, golf courses, race courses etc. in the rural-urban fringe.
  2. The fringe contains the intensive agricultural and horticulture activities. Primarily, the farms provide fresh vegetables and milk to the city. Since, the value of land is relatively higher than rural areas, the farmers tend to use their small landholdings, intensively.
  3. It is an area on which the city is encroaching continuously. The rural character of the fringe is disappearing quickly as the spatial extent and population of the city grows.
  4. This zone does not contain adequate social and public amenities such as hospitals, toilets, markets, roads, playgrounds, parks etc.
  5.  Since the land price in fringe is lower than the city, large multistory commercial and residential real-estate projects come up in this area. Due to relatively cheaper housing, middle class families shift to these residential colonies.
  6. City’s green belt is located in the rural-urban fringe. It provides ecological services such as fresh air, leisure etc. to city folks.
  7. Zone of commuters lies outside the fringe. Commuters come to city daily for work and business from this zone.

Administrative Problems

Administratively, the rural-urban fringe is a problematic zone due to following reasons.

    1. All the obnoxious land use activities are carried out in this zone such as garbage dumping, criminal activities, illegal construction etc.
    2. Continuous encroachment of agricultural land by the land mafia.
    3. The land use needs urgent regulation to avoid future urban problems.
    4. The municipal corporations relocate the slums from the city center to this zone.


To sum up, we can say that city region contains two zones i.e. the city and its hinterland. The hinterland/umland  contains the fringe which has both rural and urban characteristics. It is a zone of transition between rural and urban areas containing green belt, obnoxious land use, having administrative ambiguity and infestation of criminal activities.