How migration affects poor urban settlements
The root cause of migration lies in people's quest to live or subsist in a form better than their present status. Some migrate for sheer survival, that is, to escape from poverty. And some want to improve their quality of life, while still others search for fortune. Since each of these pursuits is made by people who come from different socio-economic strata and hence have a different purpose for moving, migration is quite a heterogeneous phenomenon. In contemporary low-income economies, however, the principal reason for people to move is the worsening productive-resource-to-human-power ratio, stemming mainly from rapid population growth and an external demand for local resources.
This has compelled large sections of the populace to migrate to look for work as a part of their survival strategy. Depending upon the needs and circumstances, people move seasonally, for fixed periods, or permanently. In this sense, the transition economies of South-East Asia, some of which are among the poorer ones in the world, present a picture typical of other low-income countries.
As with migration to the cities, people move in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Income disparities among and within regions is one motivating factor, as are the labour and migration policies of sending and receiving countries. Political conflict drives migration across borders as well as within countries. Environmental degradation, including the loss of farmland, forests and pasture, also pushes people to leave their homes. Most "environmental refugees", however, go to cities rather than abroad.
Rich countries' investment in health and education sectors in developing countries would help to foster long-term cooperation in managing migration pressures and improve the production capabilities, both of migrants and those who remain at home. While younger adults are more likely to migrate than older people, women make up nearly half of the international migrant population. Family reunification policies of receiving countries are one factor influencing migration by women, but women themselves are increasingly likely to move in search of jobs. Women frequently end up in the low-status, low-wage production and service jobs, and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse.
Among refugees, women and children are the majority. At the end of 1997, the number of refugees outside their countries of origin totalled 12.0 million. The figure does not include people in refugee-like situations who have sought asylum in other countries. Nor does it reflect migration by displaced persons within national borders. In 1997, UNHCR estimated this total "population of concern", including returnees and those seeking asylum and/or refugees status, as numbering 22 million; a number which may have increased since the time.
Ultimately, the goal of both sending and receiving countries should be to make the option of remaining in one's home country a viable one, as is stated in the ICPD Program of Action. But this goal will not be easily realized. Efforts to enhance economic opportunity, to sustain and improve agricultural production and to provide health care and education are among the strategies proposed by the ICPD at Cairo. Equally important, however, are strategies to resolve political conflict, end human rights violations and promote good governance.
The world is steadily becoming more urbanised--because people move to cities and towns in search of employment, educational opportunities and higher standards of living. Some are driven away from land that, for whatever reason, they can no longer support themselves. By the year 2050, urban areas are expected to be home to more than half of the world's population.
Already 74 per cent of Latin American and Caribbean population live in urban areas, as do 73 per cent of people in Europe, and more than 75 per cent of people in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. In both Africa and Asia, urban dwellers represent about a third of the total populations. However, there are significant variations between individual countries. In Africa, for example, more than 50 per cent of the populations of Algeria, South Africa and Tunisia reside in urban areas.
In addition, there is a continuing trend towards ever-larger urban agglomerations. By the turn of the century, 261 cities in developing countries will have populations over 1 million, compared with 213 in the mid-1990s. In 1994, there were14 so-called "mega-cities," defined as cities with at least 10 million inhabitants. Their number is expected to double by 2015.
Urbanization and mainstream development:
Cities have been the pioneers of American growth. From the beginnings of European exploration and conquest, towns and cities were the staging points for the settlement of successive resource frontiers. Boston and Santa Fe in the seventeenth century, Philadelphia and San Antonio in the eighteenth century, Cincinnati and Denver in the nineteenth century, and Anchorage and Miami in the twentieth century all played similar roles in organizing and supporting the production of raw materials for national and world markets. It has been city-based bankers, merchants, and journalists who have linked individual resource hinterlands into a single national economy.
The reality of the "urban frontier" clashes with the ingrained American frontier myth. In his famous essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (1893), Frederick Jackson Turner asked his readers to take an imaginative stance over the Cumberland Gap to watch the "procession of civilization � the Indian, the fur trader and hunter, the cattle raiser, the pioneer farmer." City makers, by implication, trailed far to the rear. From James Fennimore Cooper's novels and Theodore Roosevelt's Winning of the West (4 vols., 1889-1896) to Paul Bunyan stories and John Wayne movies, there is little place for the bustling levees of New Orleans, the surging crowds of Broadway, or the smoky cacophony of Pittsburgh steel mills.
The writer is an environmental
analyst & associate member, Bangladesh Economic Association