By Qurat ul Ain Aman
It’s time to tackle the challenge
Pakistan, being a developing country, is confronting a number of issues, at present. Among them the multidimensional problem of burgeoning population is of critical importance. Total population of Pakistan, as per the latest census, is around 208 million, making the country the 5th most populous in the world. Amidst a growing population, the rate of unemployment is also increasing with every passing day. Around 30 percent of Pakistanis are living below the poverty line. The issues related to distribution of food and water are yet to be resolved. Although Pakistan is a resource-rich country, yet these resources are depleting owing to gross mismanagement by the authorities concerned. Unfortunately, hardly any of our strategic policies is in line with the issues emanating from the menace of growing population. However, it is indubitable that all these issues can be solved only through good governance.
Education is the backbone of a nation. But, the deteriorating situation of education in Pakistan is worrisome, to say it mildly. With the increase in population, the total number of out-of-school children has also increased. It is a sad reality that around 5.5 million Pakistani children are still out of school. The Government of Pakistan spends around 2.5 percent of the national GDP on education. No palpable change in budgetary allocation for education to meet the demands of fast-growing population has been seen. Amidst all these issues, the rate of literacy still remains at a meager 58 percent. The progress of Pakistan can never be assured unless literacy rate is increased.
Another issue confronting Pakistan due to the overpopulation is the deteriorating situation of health sector. The fast growth in population demands not only the construction of new hospitals and healthcare centres but also the availability, therein, of new and modern medical equipment. The bad condition of public sector hospitals in terms of management and provision of proper facilities is not a secret now. Total number of beds and health facilities available at government hospitals do not meet the demand. It is important to note here that Pakistan ranked 149th out of 179 countries in 2015 on the Maternal Mortality Ratio Index. Followed by a sheer lack of awareness, unavailability of food, polluted water and hygiene problems have given rise to a number of health issues in our country. But, despite all these issues, the health budget is still around 0.9 percent.
In addition, water resources of Pakistan are also depleting due to mismanagement. Owing to lack of attention on construction of new water reservoirs, the issue of water-shortage is getting aggravated day by day. By considering the fact that population of our country is rapidly increasing, the need of the hour is to ensure a strict implementation of the recently-announced National Water Policy for better water management. The need to enhancing the country’s water-storage water capacity was never as acute as it is today. It must be remembered that the provision of clean drinking water is imperative to control the ratio of infection and disease among the masses. Pakistan is already on the list of water-stressed countries. It is frightening that the current per-capita availability of water in Pakistan has reached 1016 cubic metres. If the availability of water falls below 1000 cubic metres, Pakistan will be classified as a water-scarce country. Around 45 percent Pakistanis do not have access to clean drinking water. Our population is increasing rapidly but no serious steps are being taken to solve the chronic water issue.
The growing population has also aggravated the issue of global warming. This global phenomenon results in depletion of resources and deforestation which, in turn, cause not only social but also economic issues. In many rural areas, people cut down trees to use wood as a fuel. Sadly, we are willing to use these trees to fulfil our needs but we do not bother to plant new ones to replace the cut-down ones.
Construction of new factories and industries to accommodate the country’s large workforce is also inevitable. All such factors play a significant role in increasing the temperature of the earth. The land of our country is suitable for agriculture but the global-warming-induced changes in environmental and rain patterns are making our lands barren. All these issues can be solved if the authorities concerned adopt proper measures to provide modern machinery and other agriculture-related equipment to the farmers.
Moreover, overpopulation demands construction of more houses and commercial buildings. Amid such conditions, the management of major cities becomes another challenge. In Pakistan, the number of people migrating from rural to urban areas has increased substantially. Such factors cause a hustle in urban areas. As per a statement by Jameel Ahmed, Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan faces a shortage of 10 million housing units which needs to be addressed immediately. Around 1.5 million children are living on the streets. Due to the high rate of unemployment, parents prefer to send their children to work instead of sending them to school.
All such issues can be handled only with proper research and prudent planning. The positive role of media is also imperative to spreading awareness among the masses so as to overcome the issue of rapidly-growing population and other related ills. Proper management and distribution of resources is important in this regard. Both federal and provincial governments, as well as the citizens of this country will have to work collectively to make Pakistan a prosperous state.