Improving water supplies in rural African villages may have negative knock-on effects and contribute to increased poverty... Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community wellbeing and livelihoods but... that this can lead to unforeseen consequences caused by an increase in the birth rate in the absence of family planning... Resulting population pressures encourage young adults to move to urban areas. Such urbanisation in less developed countries concentrates poverty in cities which already have stretched public services...
Academics argue that the results of this study highlight the need for policy-makers to take into account this link between development projects and changes in demography, especially as over 90 per cent of urbanisation is taking place in the developing world.
By looking at longitudinal survey data collected from 1,280 households before and after the installation of water taps in five Ethiopian villages, researchers were able to show that family size increased due to the reduced time and energy women spent carrying water on their backs and a dramatic reduction in child mortality. This increase has placed greater pressure on the household’s resources, namely food and land, leading to higher rates of childhood malnutrition and inequalities in access to education.
Feeling pressurised by this increased competition, the study concluded that those aged 15 to 30 with access to taps were three times more likely to migrate to a larger city or town than those without ready access to water... “These population pressures have encouraged young adults to migrate to urban areas, which actually contributes rather than relieves population pressure. The demographic consequences of rural intervention initiatives are rarely considered, but it is imperative that they should be. One of the key challenges of the 21st Century relates to population pressures, and this work highlights the need to develop a better understanding of the relationship between demography and development.”
Press release: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2012/8945.html
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048708