• Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rush for cities cuts poverty but blights urban livability

Analysts suggest better plans as urban migration rises

Sohel Parvez

Eskender Ali Tarafder left his village in Bagerhat in 2001 to find a job in Dhaka. He later joined a jute mill in Munshiganj district near the capital as a temporary worker.
Four years later, he married another factory worker Manjila Begum, who also migrated to Dhaka from her village home in Rangpur.
The couple later changed jobs -- Tarafder now works at a trading house and his wife at a garment factory -- and have been living in Dhaka with their seven-year-old daughter. They occasionally send money to their families in villages.
Tarafder is one of the thousands of people who have migrated from rural and suburban areas to urban areas, particularly Dhaka and Chittagong, to fight poverty and get a better living.
Migration to urban areas rose faster in the decade 2001-2011 than in 1991-2001.
Some 67.3 persons out of every 1,000 migrated to urban areas in 2011, up from 33.2 persons in 1991, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
In 2001, the migration rate was 45.4 persons per thousand.


A host of factors -- poverty, landlessness, indebtedness, a lack of year-round jobs, river erosion, soil salinity and natural disasters along with marriage and education -- are responsible for soaring migration, analysts said.  
"The economic reasons are the main factors. Migration for education has also gone up," said Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre.
Internal migration was also buoyed by massive expansion in the apparel, trade and services sectors.
People, mainly the male and female youths, have migrated from less-advanced regions to economically developed areas, notably Dhaka, Chittagong and their surrounding areas that offer livelihood opportunities.
Since 1991, population growth in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet, three major cities in the country, has been higher than the national average, which implies massive urban migration, according to the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh.
The internal migration, which has begun to rise faster since 1986 due to a boom in the labour-intensive apparel sector, has accelerated the pace of urbanisation and economic growth.
It has also helped reduce poverty, absorb surplus labour and improve living standards in the rural areas, according to several studies on the issue.
Urban population, which was 14.9 percent of the total population in 1980, rose to 28.9 percent in 2012, according to UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. "Migration is instrumental in economic growth and development," said Prof Nazrul Islam, chairman of Centre for Urban Studies.
He said economic growth and industrialisation attract more people to cities. Their entry leads to increased economic activities in both formal and informal sectors and speed up the pace of urbanisation, he added.
However, increased urbanisation due to migration has led to a rise in the number of slums, and worsened air pollution and traffic congestion in cities. "Migration is good. But large scale migration creates many problems," Islam said.
Migration should be encouraged to different directions, not to Dhaka and Chittagong only, he said.
The UNDP said the government should focus on better management to benefit from migration.
"The government should actively plan for more effective and dynamic cities, linked and supported by their hinterlands," it said suggesting a stronger regional development policy. "Internal movements potentially have a stronger contribution to make to the growth process and to poverty reduction," the UNDP said.
Migration to Dhaka helped Tarafder, now 38 years old, come out of poverty and send his daughter to school.
"It was a good decision. Had I not come to Dhaka, I could not have earned a better living," he said.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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