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Dying rural villages 'should be abandoned'

The Local · 29 Nov 2011, 14:26

Published: 29 Nov 2011 14:26 GMT+01:00

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Steffen Kröhnert said his study “The Future of Villages” broke taboos by setting out what was really happening in rural Germany – and talking taking a harsh yet realistic approach to the problem.

The researcher from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development told The Local on Tuesday that politicians had to accept the fact that some isolated small villages would simply not remain viable places to live.

In some cases, people left living alone in tiny derelict villages should be offered help to move, while money should also be spent on demolishing empty buildings which are not going to be used, in order to stop them becoming eyesores and making the villages even less appealing.

Small villages are having great difficulty paying for the high-standard infrastructure dictated by many German regulations, while some laws were simply silly in tough economic times, he added.

“There is for example, a rule which means even small rural communities have to be connected to large central sewerage facilities, but this is becoming increasingly difficult for rural councils to finance – and as the population declines, costs per head go up. They must be given the option of setting up local facilities, even green, low-cost ones,” he said.

“A simple rule which really needs to be changed is the ban on transporting mixed loads – people along with goods. This prevents a local bus taking people as well as for example, supplies for a small village shop.”

If a bus service was only marginally viable due to the small number of people in a village, it made no sense to stop it from taking extra goods too, he said.

His study showed that in general, but especially in the east of Germany, villages were losing their population faster, the further they were away from larger towns.

Two thirds of all rural communities nationwide lost more than one percent of their population between 2003 and 2008, while in eastern Germany nearly two thirds had lost more than five percent of their people. This was due to a low birth rate and increasing departure of younger people to towns and cities.

Kröhnert and his colleagues studied two regions in detail – Vogelsberg county in Hesse, central Germany, and Greiz county in Thüringia in the east. They concluded that that in Vogelsberg one in six of the villages which had a population smaller than 500 were critically endangered – five lost more than 15 percent of their people between 2004 and 2010.

In Geiz, one in five of the small villages were seen as critical, with 17 of them having lost more than 15 percent of their people between 2004 and 2009 – including five villages which had fewer than 20 people living in them.

As the population of a small place shrinks, said Kröhnert, the cost of infrastructure increases per person who remains. “The streets need to be maintained for example, as do electricity supplies and water systems, no matter whether five or 100 people live in a place,” he said.

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Any attempt to attract young people to little villages would be “doomed to fail,” he said. Rather, people had to be realistic about the decline of small communities far from larger centres.

There are some which will not survive, he said. And the challenge for local authorities is to work out how to support those people living in doomed villages – and at some point, how to motivate them to leave.

With its stubbornly low birthrate, Germany's population is expected to plunge by a fifth to 65 million inhabitants by 2060.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:47 November 29, 2011 by Gretl
Think of all that cheap real estate! Housing for immigrants from other countries!
23:13 November 29, 2011 by Eins Null
I find this so very sad. It is perhaps understandable in the former East, but how come there is so little money for villages in the West. In a very quiet way, such money was always available as simply maintenance and Germans were always so very proud of their villages. Can someone think of what has gone wrong?
07:17 November 30, 2011 by heyheyhey
@ gretl

You spew contempt for immigrants like a coal burner spews ash!

Attitudes such as yours are poison in a world that becomes ever more small by the day.

11:34 November 30, 2011 by nolibs
@hey3 - Gretl has a good point since that is exactly what the German government does with cheap real estate. I guess you've never lived near one of the self-made immigrant housing areas, otherwise you'd be scared too. Trash, crime, graffiti all increase. It's the poor long-term residents that see their way and standard of life eroded by this policy.
16:59 December 2, 2011 by jabulani
what it should be considered is that the non caucasians immigrants they will double their population every 10 years or less and usually will need more help from the government so germans will have to work to support the system to maintain the neede inmigrants who are for most of the time demanding "their rights " as new citizens !!! no country stays the same after that. unfortunally these people create the same problems they have created in their own homeland and they do not change...they want the whole worl to change FOR them.!!!

crime raises, jails will be full and that is only the beguining.
18:32 December 4, 2011 by Bigbobswinden
It is not just the movement of youngsters to city's that causes concern, a low birth rate means an ageing population. Who will pay the taxes to pay for the care of an ever increasing pensioner population with less people left to look after them?
21:54 December 5, 2011 by SchwabHallRocks
It's a world-wide developed-world problem. Even more severe in France and USA. Generally, young folks don't want to milk sheep for a living.

There is a very minor reverse of this happening in boutique agriculture like speciality cheese and organics agriculture as a few people go back to agriculture to find peace.

In general, though, who wants to work around dung and flies?
14:40 December 6, 2011 by willowsdad
Maybe the squatters who've taken over portions of Berlin could be persuaded to move in and turn these villages into hip, artsy places.
18:29 December 9, 2011 by McNair Kaserne
Maybe the squatters who've taken over portions of Berlin could be persuaded to move in and turn these villages into hip, artsy places in the middle of nowhere.

There, fixed it for you.... :wink:
21:30 December 13, 2011 by bramblebush
Perhaps they should just turn that land into mega farms like in Canada. Only, without the open muslim immagration problem that is ruining Canada.....
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