Rural-Urban Migration: the Main Factor Behind Challenges in Kabul City

Although Kabul is the capital city of Afghanistan and considered as one of the ancient city of the world with having a history of over than 3,000 years, it is faced with many social, cultural and economic, environmental problems. From one hand, it hosts nearly 7 million populations which changed it to the most crowded city of the world with growing population due to internal displacement issue in the country. On the other hand, there seems no clear outlook how to manage this unplanned city with its large population who has newly migrated from villages without being familiarized with culture of urbanization. When we pay a visit to hospitals and health centers, there are always a long line of people with health problem which largely rooted in environmental and economic issues of the capital city. In winter season, Kabul get a dark face due to coal fuel smoke emitted from household heaters and business factories which overall caused the city to frequently get the position of most polluted city of the world.

Although there are many factors behind these unmanageable issues, the most blamable factors is internal displacement or internal migration. the international migration usually raised as an issue in developed countries while the internal migration matters in developing and underdeveloped countries which is also termed as rural-urban migration. In the past, it was largely believed that urbanization can pave the way for progress in all countries. For example, Arthur Lewis, a famous scientist, believed that internal migration or rural-urban migration could lead to the development of nations. This theory was known as one of the top development theory for third world countries, but several countries did not reach to the desired result after implementation of this theory. For example, India encouraged people to migrate from rural to urban areas in order to achieve economic development, but it resulted in lack of urban services and a concentration of services in large cities. Consequently, India compelled to move its capital from Delhi to New Delhi. Similarly, Brazil was forced to move its capital from Brazil to Brasilia after the implementation of this theory, and Turkey was forced to move its capital from Istanbul to Ankara after the implementation of this theory. But Afghanistan is unintentionally moving to the same direction, although there is no plan for using the mentioned development theory.
Nevertheless, the internal migration may act as potential factor of economic growth in some cases provided that it is properly managed or else it will cause serious challenges to urban development and proper distribution of job opportunities, as well as inadequate geographical distribution of population as we experience in Afghanistan, now. the main factors of internal displacement in Afghanistan are insecurity, poverty, unemployment, drought, poor distribution of services across the country, lack of equal employment opportunities, lack of equal  educational facilities, lack of equal health facilities, as well as lack of connecting route to join the margin areas to the central area. If we fail to tackle these factors, the consequences of internal migration in the country, as a hidden social sunami, will threaten all large cities. This trend will not only impose important economic and health consequences such as unemployment, corruption,  environmental pollution, lower wages, lower living standards, lack of urban services, spread of transitive diseases, prostitution, but also social security challenges such as kidnapping, killing and  armed robberies. Therefore, establishment of a mechanism for rural urbanization should be considered as a long-term strategy and  effective way to manage the migration process in major national and academic discourses, and this issue should be brought to the attention of Afghanistan donor countries so that this hidden social sunami may not surprise everyone.
The next issue which will probably worsen the situation in large city, especially in Kabul is lack of readiness for receiving millions of external returnees who accustomed to live in different cities of neighboring countries and beyond. According to some reports, Afghanistan has got a high place in the world with millions Afghan refugees in the globe.
Thousands of them with their siblings are still wandering in Pakistan, Iran, India, Turkey, Indonesia and other countries. Based on the figures which released in recent year by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, almost six million Afghans have left the country over the past 17 years as the conflicts and violence continue in the country while a vast majority of refugees did not go far: nearly four out of every five reside in a neighboring country, hoping to return home soon. Obviously, when they returned home, they will come to large cities such as Kabul, Mazar, Herat and so on whereas no readiness to receive such a large number of people in these already crowded city.
Taken as a whole, Kabul does look like a capital city rather it looks like a paralyzed city due to multiple interconnected challenges while the situation will worsen due to the reasons as briefly explained. Given all these challenges and given that Kabul is considered as a capital and symbol of entire culture of Afghanistan, it needs serious attention of thinkers, actors and even international alliances. Sometimes citizens complain that despite pouring billions of dollars in last two decades but we could not change at least the face of Kabul city.  In fact, people are extremely unhappy from these numerous challenges though they do not have much expectation saying no “big demand except peace and security.”

Mohammad Zahir Akbari


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