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Movement Of People From Non-Deserts To Deserts
Job creation encourages immigration to deserts and desert urbanization

The dimension of human migration from non-desert regions into deserts cannot be precisely quantified. But, because desert cities and towns do not normally have an agricultural hinterland from which they can draw rural migrants, their population growth can be attributed to both natural growth and to migration from outside the desert (Portnov and Erell 1998). The growth of desert cities, clearly evidenced in industrial countries in the mid-20th century, is an indicator for migration of people from non-deserts to deserts. This migration is usually employment-driven. New jobs are created in the desert when governments encourage military and industrial dispersal from densely-populated non-desert areas to the open spaces of deserts, as well as large-scale development projects. These attract services - catering, restaurants, hotels, transportation, travel agencies, shopping, housing developers, etc. - which create additional employment opportunities for desert newcomers.

Migration to the desert may also take place for security considerations. Thus, during WWII, major industries were relocated from the western part of the former Soviet Union, occupied by Nazi Germany, to its eastern regions, including the deserts of the Kazakh and Turkmen republics. This relocation was followed by a major migration of technical personnel and employees of these industries. In recent years, the government of China established incentives promoting primary and military industries to boost the economy of its western and northern desert regions, driven by the discovery of oil in these regions and by a policy of encouraging development of the inland parts of the country. Other policy-encouraged immigration into deserts, which may affect smaller desert societies, their lifestyles, cultures and environment, are the immigration of han Chinese into the Uyghurinhabited Xinjiang (Nellemann 2005), and the immigration of Delta-inhabiting Egyptians into the small Bedouin societies of the Sinai, as well as the settling of Egyptian university graduates in remote desert localities charged with reclaiming them for cultivation (Divon and Abou-hadab 1996).

In industrial countries, migration from non-desert to desert areas is driven by the availability of cheap housing (development towns in the Negev Desert of Israel), including for retired citizens (the Sun Belt localities in the US, or the Canary Islands) who are attracted to desert towns by the dry and sunny climate. In developing desert countries, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, periodic droughts in nondesert drylands draw thousands of rural migrants and nomads to local cities, many of which are located adjacent to deserts, in search of food and employment (Pedersen 1995) (see also Chapter 2).

Tourist influxes to deserts encourage migration to deserts

In recent years, many desert areas south of the Mediterranean basin (e.g., Canary Islands, Eilat in Israel, Sharm-al-Sheikh in Egypt), have become popular destinations for tourists from northern countries, who are attracted by the balmy climate of the desert. Many desert resorts in the Mediterranean spur their attractiveness by combining recreational facilities for vacationers with visits to adjacent archaeological and geological parks. Rehabilitation centres for patients suffering from diseases, such as asthma or arthritis, have also been established in desert regions (Golany 1978). Desert tourism boosts the economy of desert countries (11 per cent of Egypt's gross national income is from tourism; WRI 2003), and services for the desert tourism industry also create new jobs and attract immigration into the growing desert cities.


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