Iran has one of the highest urban-growth rates in the world
"There's hardly anyone left in Khoshk. Most of my friends have gone, and the ones that haven't, are just waiting to leave," she told IRIN.
STEEP URBAN GROWTH
Iran has one of the highest urban-growth rates in the world. In 1950, about 27 percent of the population was urban; now the figure has more than doubled, to 65 percent, and a UN report predicts that by 2030, that percentage will shoot up to nearly 80 - an unprecedented figure for a developing country.
The result of this population shift is that cities have been unable to keep up with the population explosion. NGOs say slum areas, high unemployment, poor public services and a depressed economy are direct results of mass urbanisation.
The government's initiative - dubbed the "reverse-migration initiative", to be launched in Rahmani's home province of Khorasan, is a five-year plan which will plough much-needed money into regenerating rural areas. By investing in local industries, farming and public services, the government hopes to create jobs and stimulate agricultural production, which has been in steady decline since the 1960s.
The Islamic deputy councillor of Khorasan, Abbas Ali Ornaghi, hopes that the pilot scheme will succeed. "We have to consider that employment is one of the biggest issues for most migrants. We know that most of our villagers have the capability of agricultural work, therefore investment in those areas will be a solution," he told the Iranian daily, Hamshahri.
But for people like Rahmani, returning to the old way of life - farming - is not an option. "In my village, we used to cultivate the land and grow saffron and barberries. But the physical labour is hard - our bodies aren't used to it, as we haven't been brought up doing it. We wouldn't survive," she said.
For decades, the government has been researching ways to curb the steady stream of migrants like Rahmani to the cities. For this latest project, Ferdowsi University in Khorasan is sharing its independent research findings on rural to urban migration with the government.
NEED FOR JOBS IN RURAL AREAS
"When you start to create jobs and facilities in villages, slowly reverse migration will happen. To create or plan the policy of reverse migration, investment is the key to success," Dr Dariush Haidari-Bigvand, the head of the research project at Ferdowsi University, told IRIN. "Through proper investment you can create employment, which in turn brings with it good facilities in the small villages," he said.
But Babak Dorbeiki, a senior consultant at an Iranian economic and political consulting firm, says Iran, being such a centralised country, has created a pro-urban mentality. Government industrialisation policies, he says, have made the cities dream destinations for villagers, and no amount of investment will change this.
"Migration in Iran does not solely depend on economic factors, and many more factors, such as security, social and cultural viewpoints, are involved. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the government had a new approach to economy, and agriculture was its priority. So the government focused mostly on rural developments, such as water-network development, electrification and road construction," he told IRIN.
BUT MIGRATION CONTINUES
"Most of these plans were utilised in deprived regions, such as Khorasan. Nevertheless, migration in these provinces continued, which means government investments won't guarantee the decrease in the migration process," he said.
Dorbeiki cites Namak, in Khorasan, as an example: a small, deprived village with a population of around 3,000 before the 1979 revolution. The government invested heavily in local facilities and services there as incentives for the villagers to stay. But electricity, water networks and new schools were not enough to stop Namakis from leaving.
Ra'nah Rahmani doesn't believe the government's efforts will work
... Payvand News - 11/21/03 ... --