Bangladesh population

Demographic time bomb: can it be avoided?

Recently, a political debate workshop was organized on population by a political institute where my recommendations were not integrated into the final draft. Therefore, we sought to write about it independently to alert the world to the demographic time bomb in the South Asian region. Although it is difficult to overcome this problem, it is certainly possible.

We compared the growth rates of Bangladesh and Pakistan, 1% and 2.9%, respectively, to see the effectiveness of population control policies. But before venturing into political questions, are there any measures as to what a good population size might be that can adequately weigh in the balance?

The dictionary definition of a “balanced population” is “Natural population in a particular land area or body of water which maintains itself year after year with a small fluctuation in the number of individuals despite regular fishing and hunting”. In light of this, how have several ecological communities fared? The human population has increased exponentially to a point where the biophysical limits of the globe are threatened.

Maybe animals deserve this planet more than us because they are disappearing at the expense of us humans. Animals live in nature, but humans have increasingly dwelled outside of nature. This notion is directly opposed to knowledge of modernist inspiration, which insists on the fact that nature does not exist; rather, a mechanical universe is composed of dead matter, which can be dominated at will and used to our advantage. There is nothing sacred in nature per se. The first vision considers nature as a spouse from whom we benefit and towards whom we have a responsibility. This latter view sees the natural world as a prostitute, from which one benefits but has no responsibility. This means that the spirituality of nature should be respected to co-exist with nature rather than dominating nature irresponsibly.

Read more: The implications of Pakistan’s runaway population growth

For people to support themselves, if people grow, then the forest must also grow, water must also grow, and other resources too. However, as physical resources are more or less limited, this will eventually lead to the dystopian Malthusian condition. The new demographic parameters stipulate that a country, within its physical and financial capacity, must have a certain number of inhabitants, which must not be greater than what it can support. These parameters are implicit in international development indicators such as food, drinking water, quality of life, etc. As research from the University of Srinagar has pointed out, a decade ago the world’s population was overpopulated by 15%.

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Now, if we apply these parameters to Pakistan, then it’s a country for only 80 million people, not 250 million people. The figure of 80 million was reached in 1980. In 2021, the way we Pakistanis increase our population; we have already crossed the sustainable number.

Rural to urban exodus

According to the last census carried out in 2018 by the government of the time, the estimated population growth was 2.9%. This meant that we were adding around 6-7 million children each year. It’s more than durable. Another terrible thing that is very different from most countries in the world is that more than 50% of the population lives in villages, and rural poverty is 55%, compared to 9.5 in cities. People who live in villages come to urban cities to work while still living in villages. Why won’t the 55% move to a place where only nine out of 100 people are poor? This would mean an exodus to the cities.

If this pace continues, then according to available statistical figures and trends, Pakistan would have about 320 million people by 2030, 80% of whom would live in cities. Eighty percent of those 320 million is about 240 million people. Imagine 240 million people living in urban centers? What’s going to happen ? Urbanization cannot support this; there would be no sewers, no water supply, no schools, no hospitals, no education, nothing you could call civic conveniences. It’s just not sustainable.

According to these requirements, the world has designed policies called land use policies for each country. The British had introduced land use policy to the subcontinent. However, after the partition, we forgot that. According to this land use policy, the world should have some areas under the sea, some areas covered with forests, and some areas left fallow for future generations. A soil scientist named William Webster, an authority on soil science, said that “soil fertility and land conservation is a sacred mission of the future generation”.

Read more: Why Pakistan must step up its efforts to control its population

But the way we develop and consume the land, where will the future generation that we produce at 2.9% live? President Roosevelt once said, “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” We have destroyed our soil and our land. Pakistan had 3.2 percent forest at the time of partition, of which about 16 percent was in the KPK. Between birth and death, humans need trees to live, for basic traditional medicines, food, clothing, shelter, etc. We have lost our water sources, multiplying this horrible situation, so where is this land use policy that requires us to have 30 percent water? You have to know where you are going.

Imagine the old days when everything you needed came from trees? An Indian population analyst mentioned that “population is pollution and is the mother of all human ills and diseases”. If you can control population, you will control pollution, thus controlling your national health.

Looking for resources

Overpopulation is the main cause of our health care expenses, hospital shortages for large populations are inevitable, and for such a large population, the eternal super forces cannot even give full medical treatment. Even providing clean air to breathe for such a large population will be a challenge. We don’t need to research the problem of water scarcity or scarcity.

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This problem will recur unless policy makers listen to the narrative and realize; the root cause of the problem is “population”. Are they too stupid to understand the problem, or do scientists and activists have a low tone or inability to communicate to sound the alarm about this threat? The research question is why scientists and policy makers are not on the same page.

Pakistanis are reluctant to call the population a problem. There should be a population control department instead of population welfare. How is this well-being possible with this 2.9% increase without planning, and how can we solve the problem? What amazed, surprised, amazed and saddened me is that we do not take a step when we know the issue perfectly well. I have never seen or heard of any man in a position of responsibility and deliverance, including the head of state in Pakistan, openly declaring this as a threat.

As for recommendations, I would recommend two things. The example set by China, the largest population, Sarah Lloyd, wrote in her book on the Chinese connection recounting the long walk, “everyone was walking 30 to 40 miles a day on less food, and now the China has the biggest problem in storing rice.” The Chinese have done wonders, and one wonder has been to implement the one child policy 40 years ago in the 1980s. This one-child policy balanced the Chinese population. As a result, the average height of the Chinese has increased by an inch, health levels have risen and medical expenses have fallen.

Read more: Pakistan and the population explosion: knowing when it’s time to stop

Pakistan can have a one child policy for the next 25 years to strike a balance. The government must spend 5% of GDP on education over the next 15 years, especially science, technology, mathematics, history, economics and logic, to make this a reality .

My suggestions here are that when a new couple gets married, whether they are poor, rich or middle class, the government should advise them not to produce a second child for a period of five years. The government should give them a certain amount, around 500,000 rupees. Also, if they do not produce a second child in the next two or seven years, advertise a bounty of 1 million rupees for that couple. Slowly, they would be accustomed to the luxuries of a child due to improving economic conditions. Incentives are the best motive for passing on ideas, so do it. Second, a man with four or more children should be denied free medical care, free health care, free education, etc. The one child policy for the next 25 years can only move Pakistan forward.

Manzoor Ahmad Khan, former Senior Advisor, World Bank. He is also a senior researcher on agriculture and rural development projects. The writer is also a member of the American think tank (AGMIP) on climate change policies in Afro-Asian countries.