The Financial Express

Population: Control or perish

B K Mukhopadhyay   | Published: January 23, 2019 21:10:15 | Updated: January 27, 2019 21:27:54

Population: Control or perish

Some turbulent times lie ahead for the world as the global population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, up from 7.1 billion right now. French Institute of Demographic Studies has also projected that by the end of this century there will be nearly 10 to 11 billion people on this planet!

South Asian countries, especially India, are likely to become the worst sufferers. India's population is going to surpass China's by 2024. Over the next six years, India's population is likely to increase between 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion.

India will most likely hold this rank throughout the 21st century. India's population is currently at 1.34 billion-nearly four times more than what it was during its independence nearly 70 years ago. The pace of India's population growth, now at 15 million per year, is presently the world's largest. China's population, at 1.41 billion, has roughly doubled over the same period.

China and India together have more than two billion people. Their population gap is projected to widen to 500 million by 2100. In comparison, Nigeria and the United States, the third and fourth most populous countries in 2100, are projected to have populations of nearly 800 million and 450 million, respectively.

SOME UNDENIABLE FACTS: The United Nations has observed that the world population reached one billion around early 1800s. Now a billion is added to it every 12 to 15 years.

The UN estimated a population of nearly 9.8 billion by 2050 - nearly a 30 per cent increase from the present number. It also projected a possible population of 11 billion by 2100. The global population can even be as much as 16 billion by 2100.

The rapid increase in global human population is affecting the nature including biodiversity and the environment. Scientists said that nearly 10,000 years ago human beings accounted for only one per cent of the total weight of vertebrate animals on land. Today, wild animals make up just one per cent while the remaining 99 per cent by human beings, their farmed animals and pets. The Earth cannot provide for all of these lives.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has forecast that 70 per cent more food will be required by 2050. Due to population growth, availability of land per person in developing countries is expected to halve by 2050. By 2050, 71 per cent more resources will be used by each country, as per International Resource Panel (IRP) assessment. What is more a matter of concern is the fact that more than 4.0 billion people will live in regions that will face water crisis by 2050.

International Energy Agency's (IEA) forecast is that the global demand for energy will increase by 30 per cent by 2040. Brooking Institution has the opinion that a global 'middle class' of 3.2 billion people consuming at a high level in 2016 is expected to rise to roughly 5 billion by 2030!

CITIES IN CRISIS:  The world population increased seven-folds over the last 200 years. For the first time in history, a majority of the world's six billion people are living in cities. Between 2000 and 2025, the world's urban population is expected to double.

The rapid population growth has led to an acute shortage of dwelling units leading to overcrowding, traffic congestion, pollution, housing shortages (slum and squatter housing), high rents, poor urban living conditions, low infrastructure services, poverty, unemployment, poor sanitation and high crime rates. 

A number of developing countries like Bangladesh are still faced with bad road networks, lack of power supply, inadequate water supplies and basic amenities. The drainage is poor in most road networks causing water logging. Problems such as insufficient housing are being faced by low-income households which eventually cause overcrowding in already congested areas. This situation is leading to deterioration of neighbourhoods, increasing social cost and untold personal miseries.

Measures proposed to offset rising costs in public housing are already in place. These include, among others, less exclusionary zoning regulations, reduced tax burdens, cooperation with private builders, encouragement of cooperative housing organisation, promotion of industrialised building techniques, use of low-cost building materials and cheaper mortgage credit. Still the overall situation remains far from being satisfactory. Flooding is another serious problem being faced by urban population in the developing countries. Water-logging is usual even in capital cities of developing countries during the rainy seasons.

PRESSURE ON AGRICULTURE AND FARMING: In order to feed a growing world, agricultural output will need to double by 2050. As a result, farms and farmers would need to produce more and conserve more as part of sustainable agriculture! Given the pattern and trends in land use, time is ripe to seriously consider intensive farming practices. These can address the high rate of demand for food coupled with lesser supply. Considering the situation of burgeoning population, the farm sector will face tremendous pressure before it can enjoy a satisfactory and sustainable situation.

It should be remembered that an economy like India is still the largest reservoir of poverty in the world, with 300 million poor people and well above 800 million people just surviving on less than $2 per day. Southeast Asia requires immediate pep-up on this score. Neglecting agriculture can result in heavy loss in the short and long runs. Working age population should be considered as one of the rare assets that can give rich dividends. This factor had helped China achieve its growth in the recent past.

After knowing the trends and things which are likely to happen, should the world still remain silent spectators? The potential damages can be curbed rapidly with a positive outlook backed by global cooperation. Everyone especially policy-makers and leaders of governments need to be reminded that climate change is happening 170 times faster than it would go without human activity. Based on today's average global emission rates, population growth until 2050 will produce four times more CO2 emissions than USA's present amount.

Some realistic policies can help the crisis. Policy-makers should plan to bring down birth rates. Choosing a smaller family can be the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

Dr BK Mukhopadhyay is a

management economist.






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