Bolstering Rural Infrastructure To Check Migration

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Migration is both internal and international economic phenomena since the ancient times. This trend is rapidly increasing day by day with the development of transport and communication, as well as with industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth. It is increasing from rural to urban areas at the domestic level and from the less developed to the developed countries at the international level. Migration is determined by socio-cultural, economic and even political factors. However, economic factor is the most important one. The study and research of migration is really important to policy makers, planners and general readers. Migration has drastically changed the size of population and ultimately the development process of origin and destination areas in many parts of the world.

The trend of emigration from rural Nepal is on the rise. If it goes on like this, our rural areas will be devoid of youth force in the future. This has badly affected not only the rural economy, especially the agriculture and small-scale industrial sectors, but also the socio-cultural and even political activities there. There once was a time when some small-scale agro-based industries were expanding in rural areas along with agriculture development such as making agricultural tools and equipment, among others. But now, they are being reduced with the fading trend of farming. A large number of our rural youth, especially the males, are increasingly moving to urban areas and even abroad in search of better employment opportunities. 

Utilisation of resources

As far as the economic impact of this trend of migration is concerned, it has created an absolutely negative impact in the utilisation of resources available in the rural areas. When income increases, it is natural for parents to seek better educational opportunities available somewhere else for their wards. So they migrate to urban areas to enrol their children in boarding schools, leading to the decrease in the use of rural resources. They then need to manage a new settlement that typically demands high expenditure at the initial stage. What's more, dismal state of rudimentary infrastructure in rural setting also forces many people there to emigrate. 

Developed Infrastructure has a positive impact on the overall development of a country, since it is considered as an engine of growth for the economy. Infrastructure provides different socio-economic facilities to people and attracts them to settle down in a systematic way in favourable areas. A well-developed road network is indispensable to fuel rapid economic development in the initial phase of development. 

Road network contributes to fulfil various development objectives by providing employment opportunities, by boosting productivity across the sectors of an economy, by enhancing supply chain, and by creating a conducive environment for trade and business. Increased employment and higher productivity leads to the higher rate of economic growth and ultimately better living standards of people.  Nowadays, many roads are constructed even in the rural areas, but many of them are substandard. Even suspension bridges are not available in some areas, creating problems during the rainy season. A lack of good transportation facilities is another factor pushing rural people out. 

There is one more factor: a dearth of irrigation system. A well-developed irrigation system creates direct and positive impact in the agricultural production and productivity of farmers, laying the groundwork for intensive and commercial farming and opening up income-generating sources for them. Nepal is rich in water resources but its archaic irrigation system has limited uses. Moreover, a lack of modern technology, a lack of modern agricultural equipment, and a scarcity of qualitative seeds and chemical fertilisers has curbed agriculture production, failing to incentivise the farmers to engage in the sector. 

Sustainable infrastructure

A developed market system is also an important part of the infrastructure to run economic activities unhindered. A well-managed, integrated and well-connected market system can facilitate demand and supply chain, reducing transportation costs and creating enabling business environment. Underdeveloped market system in rural areas means business activities are scant there. 

Health facility is another push factor. Healthy people are more productive and so likely to earn more. Sound health of people is critical to accelerate the development of a country. However, rural areas fare poorly in such facilities. The urban population of all municipalities in 2011 was 17.07 per cent of the total population, according to National Population and Housing Census 2011. That figure jumped to 66.17 in 2021 – an increase of 49.1 per cent in a decade. Migration these days is not only from rural to urban but also increasingly to foreign countries. To check this trend, it is imperative to set up well-equipped and sustainable infrastructure in rural areas. 

(Dr. Subedi is a Professor of Economics)

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