One of the greatest threats to the survival of Pakistan is the ever-increasing population. With an annual growth rate of 3.1%, Pakistan’s population has shot up to 174.59 million. This makes Pakistan the world’s sixth most populous country.
Population explosion in Pakistan is frustrating all efforts for development. It’s a term that can be explained as the geometric expansion of a biological population, especially the unchecked growth in human population resulting from a decrease in infant mortality and an increase in longevity. This phenomenon serves as the root cause of many social, economic and political problems. At the time of independence, Pakistan, with a population of 32.5 million, was the 13th most populous country in the world but in 1996, it was at the seventh place while now it occupies the sixth position. It is believed that if population growth is not checked, then in 2050, it would be at fifth position.
M. Afzal in his article ‘Population Growth and Economic Development in Pakistan’ says:
‘In absolute numbers almost 128 million persons have been added during the last 58 years (1951-2008).The population density has increased from 42.5 persons per square kilometre in 1951 to 203 persons per square kilometre today.’
This badly affects the provision of housing, transportation, electricity, health and educational facilities.
The socioeconomic and political problems, which emanate from a huge population, disturb the macro-economic stability of a country like Pakistan. In today’s overpopulated Pakistan, the life of common citizens is becoming more and more miserable. In these circumstances, besides controlling the ever-increasing population, the government has also to maintain a balance in natural spatial distribution of population because some regions are under-populated (Balochistan) and some are overpopulated (Karachi, Lahore, etc). Currently, the uneven population distribution is a burden on the limited national resources.
The seriousness, causes and consequences of population explosion has been a subject of discussion among development economists and social scientists. Some major causes of this high growth rate in Pakistan are: lack of awareness about birth control measures, failure of family planning policies, early marriages, polygamy and illiteracy. These basic causes led to the fact that at present Pakistan has the highest population growth rate in Asia.
‘Carrying capacity’ is a biological term which enunciates the maximum number of a given species that a specific ecosystem can survive. In Pakistan, this maximum number has crossed all the limits making the environment unsuitable for living. Population can be a source of development but it may cause environmental degradation as well especially when support system fails to stabilize the situation. More population means fall in forests, water, soil, and other resources while rise in waste, pollution and greenhouse gases. This will necessarily contribute to climate change.
Renowned English demographer Thomas Malthus discussed that population of this planet is growing with geometric progression, whereas the resources to maintain this ever-growing population grow with arithmetic progression. Poverty which is a result of unequal distribution of resources can be alleviated if a respectable level of economic growth is achieved.
Constructive actions to lower fertility should be taken without any delay since population growth of Pakistan over the years has seriously negated the reasonable prospects for the sound social and economic development of the citizens.