Population growth in Pakistan an abandoned issue

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.

Most developing countries have realized that rapid growth in population is the biggest hurdle in economic development. Uncontrolled increase in population is a burden on the resources that any developing country may possess. If this burden crosses a certain limit, the standard of living declines and results in depletion of resources and, ultimately, poverty. Control over population growth must be a top priority for the recently-installed federal government. The government can tackle other daunting challenges easily if the disparity between the growth of population and economic resources is eliminated.

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.

 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.
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 The inequality between the haves and the have-nots in Pakistan presents a disturbing picture. The overpopulation monster is tearing apart our socioeconomic fabric. The distressed youth when feels deprivation and dejection, resorts to criminal activities. The lack of basic amenities forces people to move towards urban centres while leaving their farmlands behind. This has serious implications for our agri-based economy and on ‘carrying capacity of cities’ as well.

‘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.

The conservative thinking towards the use of contraceptives has thwarted all efforts of family planning. Although the fertility rate has declined, according to the Demographic Survey, yet the fertility rate of 3 children per woman means the population continues to grow. This will cause the depletion of natural resources. In Pakistan, resources are already meagre and a rapid growth in population and high fertility rate are further deteriorating the situation. That’s why poverty is also prevalent in Pakistan. According to a Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2006-07, almost 96 per cent married women were aware of at least one family planning method, fewer than half ever used one, and less than 30 per cent actually used contraceptives. The survey also showed that 25 per cent of married couples would like to use contraceptives but they don’t do this actually.

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.

By: Amina Nasir

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