Population growth and its consequences is a highly complex and controversial issue. Curbing population should be a central issue in everycountry s list of problems.
Overpopulation is responsible for the deterioration of the quality of human life in all parts of the world. It has been responsible for the intolerable gap in living standards between the rich and poor people. The rich are getting richer, but the more numerous poor are getting poorer.
I myself, being from the second most populated country in the world, India, with a population of over one billion, can relate to and identify with the curses of overpopulation and the immediate need to control the current population explosion.
One of the major problems that India faces is overpopulation. The population of India is expected to surpass China by 2050 and reach the two million mark by the year 3000. Although the crude birth rate has decreased from 50 per thousand to 36 per thousand as of 1995, still a lot needs to be done to rescue India from the shackles of overpopulation. (www2.cwrl.utexas.edu)
Overpopulation in India has considerably affected the lives of its people by degrading the standard of living and threatening the cultural environment of the Indian masses. Poverty is rampant.
"It is estimated that 300 million Indians live below the poverty level. Unless steps are taken to curb this massive population explosion, experts predict a social explosion in the coming years. According to Amartya Sen., India s Nobel prize-winning economist, the literacy rate is 52% of adults, and malnourishment strikes 64% of the Indian children. A recent study showed that more than half of the children under 12 in seven Indian cites are affected with lead poisoning." (www.secularhumanism.org)
Thus the Population explosion is burdening the people of India both economically and socially. During my stay in India I noticed that because of lack of money and population pressure, basic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation, housing, transportation, proper health care and good roads are almost non-existent. Diseases like malaria, cholera and other deadly viral diseases are common because of lack of proper sanitation facilities. One can find mosquitoes and other bugs sitting in and infecting open foods, thereby spreading viral diseases.
Also, overpopulation is causing unemployment. Currently about 130 million people are jobless. (www.achi.org). As unemployment is rampant people are willing to work for less than minimum wages which is about $ 1 a day and which by itself is not sufficient for a family to afford a decent standard of living. Also, people are willing to work under hazardous conditions without the required precautions because no other job is available. Because the minimum wage is so low parents usually force their children to work in factories under hazardous condition, thus depriving them of proper education and physical and mental development. It is estimated that India has over 100 million child laborers. (www.overpopulation.org)
Further more because of overpopulation the standard of living of Indians is very low. Most of the amenities like proper education, nourishment, medication, housing, which are considered essentials in western countries is absent in India. It is estimated that 48% of the adult population and 62% of the adult women are illiterate, 53% of the children under five are malnourished, 71% have no access to sanitation, 37% have no access to safe water. 20% of the worlds' maternal deaths occur in India." (www.overpopulation.org).
Overpopulation is also causing a burden on our environment due to massive logging of trees for use in housing and in industry and for cooking food. It is worth mentioning that most of the people in rural parts of India do not have electric or gas oven to make food, so they use wood to cook their food. Coal is still used as the main energy source by the majority of industries, which produce a lot of toxic emissions and thus adversely affect the environment. The deterioration of the environment by Indian industries is a cause of concern not only for India but also for the world in general because it affects the ozone layer, whose deterioration contributes to which in global warming. (www.earlham.edu).
Existing population levels have already put too much pressure on the natural environment and its resources, causing pollution and degradation of air, water and soil, loss of wild life and nature s beauty.
Furthermore, the water level has decreased from 3.5 to 9.9 feet over the years because of massive demand for irrigation and general industrial and household consumption, which may have adverse effects on agriculture in the near future. (www.overpopulation.org) Also, most of the people in India live close to the subsistence level, and agricultural production is barely enough to support the whole population. Because the traditional method of agriculture is still used by most farmers, production of food grains often falls short, and famine threatens if anything goes wrong with the agriculture process or because of natural calamities. (coweb.cc.gatech.edu)
There are various reasons for this population growth:
Age of marriage - Although the system of child marriage has been made illegal, it is still prevelent in many parts of India, where the mean age of marriage for women is 15. Early marriages mean that women begin bearing children early, that they bear children frequently and that they cease bearing children late in their reproductive years. (www2.cwrl.utexas.edu)
Social Insurance - Traditionally, the male in the family has the burden of looking after his parents in their old age. Since no other form of social insurance is available, the elderly population is totally dependent on male children. So, couples continue to have children until a male child is born, therefore having large families. (Ibid)
Illiteracy - 30 million women remain unaware of basic family planning techniques like the use of contraceptives and other methods of birth control. (Ibid)
Migration - Migration of people from neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Srilanka, due to political instability in their respective countries and in search of a better life, has also caused an increase in population in India. (Ibid), (www.amersol.edu.pe)
Religious beliefs - Many Indians believe that children are gifts of the gods and thereby refuse to use contraceptives and other methods of birth control, while living in absolute misery. This is most evident among Muslims in India, who are about 20% of the population. (www.secularhumanism.org)
It has been observed that those states with a higher rate of female literacy have a lower birth rate than those with lower literacy rates. Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates for women, at 86%. (www.censusindia.net) This is also the state where birth control methods are used by a larger number of people. The opposite is true in those states with very low female literacy rates. It has been seen that with education, women tend to make choices that keep the family small, and also marry at a later age, thus reducing the duration of the fertile union. (www2.cwrl.utexas.edu) If the population continues to grow at the current rate, the application of Thomas Malthus's theory that such growth will outpace food supplies and leave mankind in the grip of poverty will be inevitable.
Steps are being taken by the Indian government to counter population growth. Family planning and the use of contraceptives are being vigorously promoted through television, radio and billboards. The message of we two, our two is being spread and an effort to educate people about the benefits of a small family is being sincerely promoted. Also, condoms are being given for free to the poor people.
Perhaps, a little more effort by the government to educate women will help a lot to counter the population problem, as exemplified by Kerala. Also, the government needs to implement socio-economic measures. The principle object of this approach is to reduce births by influencing people s motives or attitudes. The socio-economic measures may include tax deductions for the first two children and no deduction after a family has more than two children, paying the cost of abortions, paying bonuses to childless couples, encouraging and simplifying abortion procedures, and making it easier for women to work. As the government has the required resources, i.e., it s command over economic planning and its authority over education. These measures will induce people to keep the number of children low. (Stanford, p206)
1)Stanford, Quentin, H; The worlds population: problems of growth. Canada: John Deyell ltd, 1972.