Urbanization impacting food security and survival of humans

Urbanization in India is reaching a new peak each day. It is estimated that every year more than 3.5 million people migrate from villages to find a place in urban India. Infrastructure in urban cities is choking despite massive expansions. Some of the cities in India have doubled in sizes in last 15 years.

While it can be story of rising India and its share in global footprint, it is also a sign of marginalization of rural India.

What’s the problem if cities are growing and why one should be worried about it. After all, it will create more jobs and uplift the living standards, make healthcare and other facilities accessible to the common man. However, if cities are growing at the expense of something as important as survival of human beings, then it should be a matter of concern for all of us and we need to seriously give a thought on it.

Before I tell you that, let me share one of my recent experiences. One of my dear friends Ramakant Mishra was planning to buy a plot for investment. He wants to invest his money at the right place for higher returns and returns on plots in cities is far higher than any other means of investment. When we reach at the outskirts of the city, we found lush green fields of wheat crop unwinding through the air. The lands are one of the most fertile lands of India but sooner a structure will come up on these lands and it will be lost forever. Painful thought but true.

Knowing food grains is the basic need of a human being and without which no human can survive, its outmost priority for us to secure food for all in coming years. We have witnessed the impact on food prices and its availability because of recent Russia-Ukraine conflicts.  A country like India which will soon surpass China to become the most populous country in the world, securing food is important and rapid urbanization can severely dent its food security plan.

This brings me to my next point, why people migrate from villages to cities? The answer can be jobs, access to better infrastructure, roads, education, hospitals. Migration is going to speed up at a more aggressive rates, but the bigger concern is that it will eat up into the fertile land that gives us food.

It’s no longer a question of about people migrating to cities, we will soon be having debates on food availability for survival for the mankind’s. The loss of land to urbanization is irreversible process as these lands cannot be again converted into goldmines of green fields.

The way governments are focussing on developing more cities put immense pressure on fertile lands nearer or outskirts of the existing cities. For a farmer, it’s a temporary gain as he is getting higher price for his land but it’s a big loss for the mankind.

I believe rather focussing on cities, government must focus on developing villages so that villagers are not forced to move out of his village and seek shelter in the city.

Here is the thing, there are some very basic needs which I call five pillars of sustainable development of rural areas that government needs to provide in the villages

  1. Electricity
  2. Good quality schools and colleges
  3. Roads
  4. Healthcare
  5. Secondary means of income

These five pillars of sustainable development if done in appropriate manner in the villages, it will stop migration to a large extent, reduce load on cities and importantly preserve the purity of our fertile lands.

I really compliment the present government for huge improvement in electricity and road infrastructure in villages. At least I can say with aplomb about Uttar Pradesh. A 20 plus hour electricity supply in UP villages is no longer a surprise for the villagers.

While first four pillars are self-explainable, I wish to bring your attention to the 5th point of secondary means of income of the villagers. It is one of the foremost reasons why villagers are migrating to the cities.

Do you know? In earlier days there was an ecosystem in rural areas which is now non-existent. Villagers grow up grains in the fields and the waste generated in agriculture lands were used to feed cattle. Cattles waste used to generate biogas, fertilizers and cowdung cakes that were used to cooking and other purposes. But with the evolution of machines, grains are cut through machines and leftover are burned. It caused increase in cost of the cattle food and suddenly cattle become unaffordable to the villagers. Because these secondary sources of income evaporated for the villagers. It has also become one of the major reasons of air-pollution. Nevertheless, coming back to our topic, the entire ecosystem went for the toss and villagers’ income nosedived because of dependability on only one source of income i.e., farming. Unfortunately, even today, farming in India depends on the mercy of rains and with rising global warming, poor villagers made to suffer the most. The labourers became unemployed and forced to move to cities to work as daily wagers. The farmers forced to sell their lands and move to the cities for other sources of income.

A villager needs a new ecosystem and it’s our responsibility to give them one. The new age secondary income for farmers can be found in first four pillars. Schools, colleges, hospitals will provide them additional income and help in creating the lost ecosystem which helped them to survive and grow in the villages for years.

Here is the thing, No one wants to leave his hometown to live a migrant life in other world, but livelihood is the basic needs, and by nature, a human is forced to walk miles in search of his basic need. If we don’t act now, we will be left with more concrete structure and less of farmland. An unthinkable human crisis is not very far away, we need to act and act fast.

This brings me to my next point, Government has a big task at his hand to support growth, save environment and provide food security to its people. All can be achieved if government turns it complete focus on villages and ensure the five pillars of sustainable life are well built in the villages. Rather concentrating everything in the urban cities, government must plan to decentralize the growth to the villages.

Some of the action’s government can initiate is mapping of the agricultural land and that land can only be used for agricultural purpose. While the rule say that fertile land can only be use of agricultural purpose, every state government in a bid to growth is converting farmlands into residential or commercial lands. This must be stopped.

Government also must draw a line after beyond which a city cannot be expanded. Today, we may see urbanization as signs of prosperity but tomorrow when we will wake up, we will realize the loss and sadly, no one will be in position to regain the lost ground.

One person one home– India is a country of great disparity. On one hand a person has more than 10 house and on the other hand, few don’t have roofs on their heads. This pointless buying by the riches in the name of investment has taken prices to the roof and more lands are added to the cities. Because of this poor are not able to buy homes and fertile land are lost to urbanization. High time government should come with the rule of one person one house.

Water and waste management in each of the societies, buildings, or standalone house. Strict vigilance and approvals must for creating a sustainable society.

We need to act to save these agricultural lands which are losing rapidly to urbanization as food is a basic need of a human being and without it everything else has no meaning to life.

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