Why Is Deurbanisation the Need of the Hour?
What is Deurbanisation? Deurbanisation means the migration of people away from the cities. This might look like a silly statement as all the reports say that more and more people are going to live in the cities and it is going to continue as well. Roughly 55% of the world's population now live in urban areas, which is predicted to increase to 70% by 2050. There are so many webinars, articles, radio and TV programmes on what is going to happen to our cities, but people do not listen to any one of them. However, I strongly believe that deurbanization or counter urbanisation is going to happen, maybe not in the next decade or so, but eventually for the following reasons.
1. Remote Work is Possible
COVID 19 has shown that remote work is practical. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has already announced that they are going to shrink their offices by 25%. This is going to be followed by many companies (huge savings in rent) and so, the employees do not have to stay in the urban areas or rent apartments. Time and patience get tested by sitting in traffic jams. They can stay in their home towns and work; which is going to cost them only 20% of the amount they spend in the city.
There are also several vacant buildings in the villages. The big boom of the internet and the lesser living costs will be useful to offices and allow them to shift to these rural areas as well. The big companies might retain a core office for liaison work in the metropolitan cities. It is a win-win situation for the employees as well as the employers. COVID has hastened this process, which would have otherwise taken a minimum of five years.
2. The Rise of Online Businesses
With the advent of Covid 19, many businesses have been shifted online. A study in the US (done before COVID) has shown that more than 20% of the shopping malls shut down due to a lack of business. Many attempts have been taken to convert them into offices, clubs, etc. This is going to accelerate since online business has also picked up momentum in many countries. For instance, a shopping complex in Chennai is facing a huge decline because of the stiff competition from all the newer shopping malls that have better-designed facilities. Employment in retail shops, offices and other related services may come down drastically. Such loss of jobs will force people to move back to smaller towns and villages.
3. Climate Change
Above all, climate change and global warming are the biggest threats to the planet. Our cities will become less habitable in the future. Pollution is also very high in Indian metropolitan cities and it claims over 120,000 lives. The number of people affected by climate change has tripled 3 times during recent years. According to scientists; floods, cyclones, earthquakes, etc. will be on the rise.
The Climate Central report shows that even with moderate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a heavily populated country like India, where 36 million people live today, could face annual coastal flooding and sea-level rise threats by 2050. By 2100, areas that are home to 200 million people will fall below the high tide line and will be submerged underwater.
The sea-level rise will make the coastal regions look very different 50 years from now. Many houses, offices, apartments and other facilities will be flooded, which will again force people to migrate to villages and other rural towns.
For the past, three or four decades, India's small towns and rural areas have been on the decline. We have been neglecting these places for all these years. It has also been happening in developed countries, but we have a habit of not learning from their mistakes. Our nation's Father, Mahatma Gandhi, has observed that India lives in its villages. It could eliminate many urban issues such as homelessness, improper waste disposal, water scarcity, high real estate prices, overcrowding, etc. Therefore, we need drastic changes in our approaches and policies to encourage people to move away from the cities.
Except for the scientific community; no one is concerned about the climate crisis. The politicians, bureaucrats, professionals and the common public are yet to understand the gravity of the situation. The advantage of shifting to the villages is that one can get less polluted air and water. If the infrastructure in our villages is improved, then this transition will happen at a faster pace. Government pumps its resources into its cities and within cities, projects seem to be concentrated in the more posh areas.
Further, Instead of building too many skyscrapers, we should concentrate on conserving our existing building fabric, which is cheaper and will emit much fewer greenhouse gases, thereby benefiting future generations. More and more alarming scientific discoveries are going to come out in the future, forcing people to move away from the cities. People will become more and more aware of environmental issues. Regardless of the places, people will live longer, if they live sustainably.