Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Unsustainable urbanisation is leading to farmer distress in India: Ranjan Panda
(Image: NASA Earth Observatory)
Yesterday, on International Day of Peace (celebrated on birth day of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of Nation), the Delhi police used blatant and open non-violent methods to stop 70, 000 farmers. http://bit.ly/2Ozb5td Farmers in this country are not only facing an aggressive assault on their croplands but serious governmental apathy as a result of which they have been a distressed lot, and have to resort to such agitations (always peaceful) like the yesterday’s ‘peace march’ to demand better price for their crops, better crop insurance, basic amenities, better and humane treatment by the policy makers. While the debate around farmers normally centre on the plight of the farmers at their place of habitation, what we forget that the growing urbanisation is adding to their woes the most.
Indian farmers are facing the worst ever distress. (Image: Social Media)
India has been building its cities at the cost of the farmlands, forests, rivers, waterbodies, farmers, forest dwellers, fisher folk and other indigenous and local communities. The urbanisation is rapid, rampant, aggressive and often destructive to all of the above entities we described. And then we seem to have lost the vision of making our cities sustainable and inclusive. A recent image by NASA Earth Observatory is a case in point.
The just released image, that compares Delhi and its periphery between December 5, 1989 and June 5, 2018, shows how vast areas of croplands and grasslands are being turned into streets, buildings, and parking lots, attracting an unprecedented amount of new residents. https://go.nasa.gov/2Nk4GNK
This image shows that most of the expansion in Delhi has occurred on the peripheries of New Delhi, as rural areas have become more urban. The geographic size of Delhi has almost doubled from 1991 to 2011, with the number of urban households doubling while the number of rural houses declined by half. Cities outside of Delhi—Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad, and Gurugram—have also experienced urban growth over the past three decades, as shown in these images.
There are many problems of such fast and unsustainable urbanisation. So far, in India, urbanisation has been happening in an unsystematic way. It’s a trap for the farmers. They are forced to migrate to cities because of distress and then the city grows to grab more of their remaining land. Most of the farmers turn into workers and live in slums, unorganised settlements and in unhygienic locations. While their rate of economic growth is marginal, the city grows at the cost and then destroys lot of the ecological resources which earlier provided the back-up services if they wishes to go back to their villages.
India seriously needs to debate this and see to it that urbanisation is inclusive and equitable and does not destroy the rural people and their resources. Delhi needs to show the way.
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India