Rural dwellers have long viewed life in urban centres of population as a massive step up from mountain, village and farm existence. With an additional two billion set to sweep into cities around the globe over the next 20 years, according to a recent World Bank report, existing humanitarian problems are liable to escalate completely out of control.
Take any city in Pakistan for example: housing pressures are already tremendous, electricity and water problems are the order of the day, sanitation is stretched way beyond acceptable limits as are government education and medical facilities. This is evident from the rapidly expanding number of homeless persons, beggars and drug addicts struggling to survive as best they can. Naturally, crime rates are surging, too, and this is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg which, as usual, no one appears prepared to tackle in any seriously sustainable form.
Poverty, as has been proven, as the corrosive root of most societal and humanitarian ills and city poverty is far worse than rural poverty when living conditions are taken into account. Overcrowded city slums are rife with filth and vermin, lack regular potable water and sewage systems and access to schools tends to be limited. The rural area migrants move to the cities, leaving behind cleaner, healthier places to live, in pursuit of betterment. What’s more is that they have left places where water can be found and some form of education generally exists.
But who can blame them? These people are drawn to cities by dreams of wealth. However, once there, they are hit hard by reality and rarely have the courage to return to wherever it is they came from as this is tantamount to admitting defeat. They live in the city’s misery and continue to dream their dreams of a better tomorrow which, for the vast majority, will never arrive.
By any stretch of the imagination, it is virtually impossible to cater to the existing influx of rural to urban migrants unless migration is eased at the source through the provision of viable income-generating opportunities, along with improvements in all necessary services and associated infrastructural concerns. If rural dwellers, no matter which part of the country they reside in, are able to enjoy a reasonably acceptable standard of life right at home, they are less likely to pack their bags and set out in search of streets paved with gold.
The creation of rural employment opportunities is far from being an impossible task and, if done in accordance with environmental issues, is the sensible way to, at least, attempt to stem the flood of humanity before it hits cities, which are already struggling to cope.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.