Recent Trends of Rural-Urban Migration and Population Explosion
In the developing world, urbanization is progressing mainly due to the lack of demand for work in agriculture and the increasing man-to-land ratio as well as the expanding industrial sector in urban areas. India’s advancing agricultural technology, comparable to that of the Western world, decreases the need for human labor. The increasing population in stressed agricultural sectors results in increasing proportions of marginal workers and unemployed individuals in rural areas as a whole. Marginalization and depreciation ultimately lead to the rise in the number of rural migrants to urban areas. While the first half of the twentieth century shows a gradual increase in the rate of urbanization in India, the degree of urbanization intensified from 1951 onward. From 1951 to 1991, India’s urban population more than tripled from 58 million to 216 million and the fraction of people living in urban area rose from 16 percent in 1951 to 26 percent in 1991 (Singh, 2001). It is projected that over the next 40 years, India will undergo one of history’s most dramatic settlement transitions, as urban populations grow from 300 million to more than 700 million (Hughes et al., 2006). By the middle of the twenty-first century, India may have both the largest rural and urban populations in the world (Revi, 2010). This unprecedented level of urbanization and population explosion as a whole in such a short period of time has tremendous import when assessing climate change vulnerability and mitigation and adaptation options. While other regions in the world may have greater risks to natural hazards, they may be in a better position when it comes to creating more sustainable development. India’s climate risk exposure is compounded by aberrant growth and lack of effective governance. In a recent article, “India’s high-stakes urban challenge,” the explosive population growth in cities is addressed:
India’s cities are expanding on a larger scale and at a faster pace than ever before. To date, though, the country has avoided dealing with the hard questions about how best to manage its massive urbanization. The policy vacuum may lead to worsening urban decay, poor quality of life for citizens, and a reluctance among investors to commit funds to projects in India’s urban centers (Dobbs et al., 2010).
The rural to urban transformation often fails to produce the types of outcomes envisioned by migrants. For, the process of social adaptation and assimilation is slow, the cost of living induces high levels of poverty, there is a severe problem in creating new urban livelihoods in an era of globalization, and there are desolate living conditions for the poor in cities (Revi, 2010). It is expected that climate change will amplify the rate of rural-urban migration over the next couple of decades. Climate change will exacerbate the problems caused by water extraction.
The Himalayan glaciers are estimated to supply 30-40% of the water in the Ganges, which is desperately needed in the dry season prior to the monsoon rains (WWF, 2007, WWF, 2005). Water withdrawal poses a serious threat to the Ganges and as the influx of water from the glaciers decline, the amount supplying agriculture will potentially be allocated to industrial and domestic use. The Indus River is also dangerously sensitive to climate change due to the high portion of its flow derived from glaciers (WWF, 2007). In addition, the basin is already experiencing acute water scarcity due to overextraction and salt-water intrusion stemming from agricultural practices. Glacial retreat, greater monsoon variability, endemic drought, flooding and resource conflict will magnify the ongoing agrarian crisis in rural India and continue to force migration (Zickfield et al., 2005). In their study of Indian agriculture and climate sensitivity, Kavi Kumar and Parikh assessed the strong relationship between farm level net-revenue and climate variables in India using cross-sectional evidence and showed the correlation between weather and farmers’ income (Kavi Kumar et al., 2001). This study has important policy implications. The destitution of farmers caused a suicide epidemic in the 1990s. Though there are programs established to assist farmers in alleviating their debts, most of them are highly ineffective. Read More