World Today, World Tomorrow

By - Surekha Roy (Freelance Journalist)

There is a view that the burgeoning population is a vast human resource which can be used for development but a substantial difference has occurred in this conception, as unchecked growth of population is more of a liability than an asset. In earlier years, prior to Industrial Revolution, population was not a problem. But with the passing years, the earth is marching towards a saturation point. Population growth which exceeds the carrying capacity of an area or environment results in overpopulation. Over population is determined by the density and the ratio of population to available sustainable resources.

The world population is the total number of living humans on Earth at a given time. As of July 1, 2008, the world’s population is believed to be 6,707,035,007. The CIA World Fact Book reports that India has a population of approximately 1,135,062,000 people according to a July 2008 estimate. It’s already the world’s second-most-populated country next to China. The percentage growth in the population during a decade is calculated on the basis of the decadal census. The change in population is a natural process which is the result of differing birth and death rates as well as migration.

India’s decadal population growth rate, at present, stands at 21.3%. This high growth can be ascribed if the death rates being lower then the birth rates. Experiences from around the world and within India have shown that birth rates fall when a society is economically well-off, women are empowered and general education and awareness levels are high. In the last few centuries, the number of people living on Earth has increased many times over. By the year 2000, there were 10 times as many people on Earth as there were 300 years ago. According to data from the

World Factbook 2005–2006, the world human population increases by 203,800 every day. The world’s population, on its current growth trajectory, is expected to reach nearly 9 billion by the year 2042. Between 1959 and 2000, the world’s population increased from 2.5 billion to 6.1 billion people. According to United Nations projections, the world population will be between 7.9 billion and 10.9 billion by 2050. The population growth is not occurring uniformly. If the countries are divided one has precisely two groups those with rapid growth rates and those with relatively slow growth rates. The first group making about two-third of the world population are mostly the Under Developed Countries. Most Latin American, African and Asian countries fall into this category. The second group is the Developed Countries which are United States, Canada, and most European Countries, Israel, Russia, Japan, Australia etc.

India falls in the category of developing countries. Population in India has been on the increase over the last 50 years and now stands around 1 billion with an overall population density of nearly 290 per sq.km. Densely populated areas, however, have population density of more than 700 per sq km with some urban areas displaying a density of 6500 per sq.km and more. Some major areas of concern are –almost half the population is below the poverty line with 40% of the urban population living in slums.

Yet, there is hardly any time-bound program to stabilize the population. World Population is currently growing by approximately 75 million people per year. Net growth by mid-century is predicted by the United Nations’ medium variant to be about 33 million per year. Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today’s 5.3 billion population of underdeveloped countries is expected to increase to 7.9 billion in 2050. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion.

The world’s population is expected to rise by 40% to 9.1 billion. During 2005-2050, nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, United States of America, Ethiopia, and China listed according to the size of their contribution to population growth. Some argue that the Earth may support six billion people, but only on the condition that many live in misery. Overpopulation has had a major impact on the environment of Earth starting at least as early as the 20th century.

Human population has expanded with resultant adverse impacts upon bio-diversity, climate change, and even human health. There are also indirect economic consequences of this environmental degradation in the form of ecosystem services which includes inadequate fresh water for drinking, sewage treatment, and effluent discharge. Rise in population is also responsible for increased levels of air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, and noise pollution. Population explosion is also responsible for deforestation and loss of ecosystems that sustain global atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide balance, and for this about eight million hectares of forest are lost each year. Carbon dioxide and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere like a thickened blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up.

The increase in global temperatures has been brought about by the increased emission of greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere. There is no doubt that atmospheric carbondioxide has risen since the 1950s along with the rise in world population. The human population explosion is becoming the greatest threat for the whole species of human genre resulting in hazardous conditions of lifestyle including overcrowded living conditions, malnutrition and inadequate, inaccessible health care. Population-reduction programs and current trends toward world population stabilization by 2050 are, by themselves, sources of assurance of a good future for the future generations. However, much too little is being proposed for much-needed government action plans with regard to the empowerment of women, free and immediate access to safe means of birth control, adequate family planning and health education programs as well as other vital interventions. The only way-out is to take on hand an elaborate program of mass education campaign especially in rural areas, directed to the goal of convincing people of urgent needs of family planning. The Government, must therefore, necessitate steps to control population before it exceeds the carrying capacity of our Planet, the Earth.

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