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Population growth, internal migration, and environmental degradation in rural areas of developing countries

by Richard E. Bilsborrow
European Journal of Population ()


This paper examines possible relationships between demographic processes and the environment in rural areas in developing countries. Evidence is reviewed on increasing degradation in the forms of deforestation (of highland forests as well as lowland forests), soil erosion and soil desiccation. The conceptual framework considers changes in demographics as well as economic behaviour being induced by population growth and increasing pressures upon the land, but the focus here is on economic changes in the form of land extensification—often involving internal migration—and land intenstification. Despite data problems, the expected relationships are observed: countries with higher rural population growth tend to have larger increases in the arable land area and associated deforestation, but the intensification effects appear stronger. The paper concludes with implications for policy and further research.

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