Population explosion: cause for alarm

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NEWS & VIEWS
Mohammad Jamil
ACCORDING to provisional summary results of 6th Housing Census 2017, Pakistan’s population has surged to a staggering 207.8 million, showing an increase of 75.4 million people in 19 years. The provisional results published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics showed an average annual growth of 2.4 percent since 1998, when the total population was put at 132.35 million. One would not understand as to how the Bureau has arrived at an average annual growth of 2.4 per cent. If increase in population by 75.4 million is divided by 19 years, the average annual growth using ‘straight line method’ should be 3 percent. According to the World Bank, annual population growth in Pakistan last measured in 2015 was 2.08 per cent, and according to Pakistan Economic Survey 2016 it was 1.89 per cent showing decline in population growth, which could be termed as a wild guess.
Pakistan faces many challenges vis-à-vis economic and social; and it would not be wrong to say that population explosion is important factor that exacerbates the problems. Because of crowded conditions of life and acute shortages, signs of stress and tension become evident, and in turn lead to abnormal behaviour patterns. According to sociologists, murders, crimes and acts of terrorism are the result of inadequate resources, unemployment, poverty and of course unfair and unjust economic system. There is no denying that with better management, fertility of soils can be maintained and improved, which could help match requirements of food for quite some time. But there is a limit, as ‘land’ is a critical factor, which cannot be increased once all cultivable land is brought under the plough. In this backdrop, the necessity for human numbers to conform to the environment cannot be overemphasized. If numbers become too great, obviously there will not be enough food for them.
Moreover, disposal of wastes also poses a serious problem in the form of pollution, which could result in epidemics. The numbers then would inevitably come to be controlled in nature’s way of removing the excess. Though population explosion is not the problem with developed countries, yet according to one survey ten per cent of the world population including the US and the European countries suffers from mental defect ranging from idiocy and raving madness to loss of mental equilibrium. The incidence is more in the developing countries, as medical science has revealed that if during pregnancy would-be mothers do not take adequate quantity of proteins, the brains of their children would not grow to the normal size; hence low intelligence and low IQ. Malthus had reckoned that population increases in geometric progression whereas resources increase in arithmetical progression; hence resources are required for the growing population.
However, one thing is sure that population outstripping resources could pose a serious challenge to the world. If numbers become too great, obviously there will not be enough food for them resulting in malnutrition, hunger and disease, and the numbers then would inevitably come to be controlled in nature’s way of removing the excess. The necessity of human numbers to conform to the environment, and how this may be achieved, has been argued since Malthus propounded his theory. Historical evidence suggests that human population numbers had been subject to cyclic variations as a result of boom, gloom and doom. First half of the twentieth century had recorded great prosperity and amelioration of living conditions, but at the same time saw savage wars that limited human numbers nature’s way. However, the continuing high population growth rate in Pakistan is a major national concern and strain on national resources.
According to experts, with the present rate of increase in population, Pakistan’s population would be 220 million by 2020. With more than 60 per cent population in age group of less than 30, it would be impossible to provide jobs and business opportunities to them. In Pakistan, social indicators with regard to human resource development vis-a-vis health care, education, level of employment, income distribution and skill formation lag behind other countries of the region. Of course, the dismal economic situation is a major challenge for Pakistan; and if urgent steps are not taken to address the situation, Pakistan can default on IMF and foreign loans. Certainly, the time has come when the political hierarchies ruling at the centre and in the provinces must give a penetrating look to their act. For, the cause they presently are championing so fervently and fracas they are waging so stridently are enthusing no one on the street.
During early 1950s, eminent philosopher Bertrand Russel in an essay titled ‘The future of mankind’ had written that before the end of twentieth century, unless something quite unforeseeable occurred, one of three possibilities would have realized. The first one was the end of human life or all life on the planet as a result of war, and then as a consequence hunger, starvation and disease. The second was reversion to barbarism in view of the first one, and third one was unification of the world under a single government, possessing a monopoly of all the major weapons of war. But with a dozen states having nuclear devices and delivery system, the third possibility can be ruled out. Therefore, efforts should be made to avert the war; and in this regard population growth must be checked, and the existing world order should be replaced with a just economic order. At the same time, it is imperative to limit human numbers in a planned way, otherwise nature would limit in its own way.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
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