A year ago, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the nation, warned that if Pakistan’s population continued to grow at the current rate, the country could face hunger and starvation. poverty in the near future. This broad warning explained the relationship between population growth and resource consumption. An increase or decrease in population influences the availability of resources for any population and determines the consequences it will face. One of the most populous countries in the world, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is facing the problem of an explosive population which, combined with the country’s inability to generate more resources, has created huge intractable problems for the country. economy of the country as well as for its people.
Water scarcity is a primary problem and an obstacle to the country’s sustainable growth and development. According to the World Bank, irrigated agriculture accounts for 20% of total agricultural land and contributes 40% of global food production. As the population increases, the demand for water resources also increases for better agricultural yield. Between the years 1947 and 2021, the population of Pakistan has grown from less than 40 million to 220 million today. During the same period, the relative growth of water resources has declined at an alarming rate. At the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947, each Pakistani could use 5,600 cubic meters of water which was reduced to 5,260 cubic meters in 1951; 1200 cubic meters in 2007; 1100 cubic meters by 2009; 100 cubic meters in 2010 and went to an all time low of 908 cubic meters in 2007. This level is expected to fall below 800 cubic meters by 2025. The country’s population has increased exponentially throughout its history, but the country’s declining economy has not been able to build more dams equivalent to its needs. Industrial and domestic wastewater is discharged into the sewers without treatment which, apart from being wasted, also causes water pollution leading to the spread of a number of harmful diseases and a decrease in life expectancy. of life.
The share of agriculture in Pakistan’s economy has fallen from 53% in 1959 to around 19% today. The textile sector, which contributes 60% of the country’s exports, is facing a shortage of cotton. Today, Pakistan produces half the cotton it produced a few years ago. This decline in productivity is due to the growing propensity of farmers to grow food products which they believe bring in handsome incomes as they are consumed by a huge population. Today, despite being the fifth largest cotton producer in the world, the country imports cotton to meet its needs. The second agricultural product that has experienced shortages in recent years is wheat. Despite being the seventh largest wheat producer, Pakistan’s wheat supply deficit is looming day by day. The indigenous agricultural products for which Pakistan claims to be self-sufficient are unable to feed its own exponentially growing population.
The industry’s contribution to the country’s economy is 21%, but it pays 70% in taxes and supports a larger part of the population. Almost a decade ago, when Pakistan was facing a huge energy crisis, the Pakistani textile industry was about to be relocated to Bangladesh, where it was promised a relatively better environment, with an adequate supply of electricity and gas, as Reuters reported in 2011. This was a brutal blow to the Pakistani economy, as the textile industry accounted for 38% of the manufacturing workforce and more than half of its exports ($25 billion) were no longer included. During this period (2011-2016), the unemployment rate in the country rose from 0.8% to 3.78%. Declining purchasing power has discouraged people from spending on education, leading to higher crime and suicide rates. Street crimes have made cities unsafe for life. This rise in insecurity has rendered the country unsuitable for foreign investment. Exports also fell as buyers felt unsafe to enter into agreements to purchase materials from the country where their goods were unsafe.
Besides causing economic and social problems, population growth is also an allowable cause of pollution. According to the Air Quality Index, Lahore is one of the most polluted cities in the world. A report by WaterAid Global indicates that 21.7 million Pakistanis do not have access to safe drinking water. Population can be the very important factor behind resource depletion and deterioration, but it is not the only and only factor. It is also the mediocrity of the procedures for developing and implementing policies. Population itself can be considered a vital resource because it is a human resource. Its qualitative aspects like literacy and life expectancy have a greater contribution to play in the economic and social sectors of development. United Nations population projections for Pakistan have revealed that the country’s population, which currently stands at 220 million, will reach an alarming figure of 245 million by 2030.
For Pakistan to have a secure future, it must devise and implement long-term, meticulously structured policies to ensure the production, conservation, careful use, proper utilization and recycling of resources. The availability of resources to people is crucial because resources sustain their lives.
-The author is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS) at Quaid-i-Azam University and a research intern at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad