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Rural Development for The Prevention of Overpopulation


by Adelowo Oguntola

The quest to be prosperous and search for a better living constitutes the main reason people migrate from rural areas to urban areas. This migration is a strategy for survival among many people in Global South countries. In a 2009 report, United Nations Habitat estimated that three million people move to cities every week.

This increasing rural-urban migration leads to overpopulation, a major threat to the environment. Its attendant problems include environmental degradation, poor air & water quality, waste disposal challenges, which constitute health hazards.

Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve center, has over twenty million people. Each day, an estimated 227 vehicles clog each kilometer of road in the city, causing traffic congestion. These cars also emit carbon monoxide and other toxic elements. And these emissions contribute to global warming.

According to the World Bank study report titled, “The Cost of Air Pollution in Lagos,” released in September 2020, air population resulted in 11,200 premature deaths in 2018. Children under five constitute the most affected, accounting for 60 % of adults. At the same time, older people are at the risk of lung cancer and heart diseases. Due to the air population, the city recorded a loss of $2.1 billion in 2018, representing 2.1 % of Lagos State’ Gross Domestic Product.

Overpopulation in cities has also culminated in an acute water shortage. Data from Lagos Water Corporation indicate that daily demand for water in the state stood at 724 million gallons. In comparison, production was 317 million gallons, leaving a gap of 407 million gallons as of 2016. Aside from this, open defecation has been a dominant challenge in Nigerian urban areas.

According to the World Bank and UNICEF, one in four Nigerians practices open defecation. And due to the increasing number of populations and energy poverty bewildering major cities, generators are mostly used to power homes and industries. These generators are responsible for health-damaging emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and other pollutants that contribute to climate change.

An estimate by a German organization, Access to Energy Institute (A2EI), is that Nigeria has twenty-three million small gasoline generators, and it has a capacity eight times more than the country’s electricity grid.

A Strong Focus on Rural Development

According to the United Nations report titled 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, two out of every three people will be living in cities. This estimate implies that around 2.5 billion more people will be added; 60 percent of the global population will be in urban centers.

To reduce environmental degradation and poverty, which are now attendant problems associated with overpopulation in urban areas, it is noteworthy for the Government to develop rural areas. People living in rural areas do not need to migrate to cities if they have basic amenities.

Provision of socio-economic amenities, like hospitals, schools, good roads, electricity supply, water supply, will enable people to consider remaining in rural areas.

Rural areas are the main markets for raw markets, and they are vital to the economic development of any country. Therefore, any country needs to prioritize rural development to make these areas habitable and productive. That way, there would be no need to visit urban centers.

The Government should prioritize providing traders and small business owners in rural areas with microcredit loans and grants. Also, the establishment of skill acquisition centers will minimize rural-urban migration. People living in rural areas can learn and acquire market-relevant skills to provide a better standard of living and contribute towards economic development. So both individuals and agencies should collaborate to ensure that this happens.


Having identified the major causes of rural-urban migration and the effects of overpopulation in urban cities, it is pertinent to arrest the situation. Governments and multilateral organizations resolutely committed to development should adopt Everett Lee’s Theory of Migration, which suggests that migration is influenced by pull-push factors, to find comprehensive solutions towards proffering solutions to rural-urban migration.



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