Overpopulation refers to an undesirable condition where human population exceeds the available natural resources to feed and sustain it. Today, the world is inhabited by over 7 billion people, with China topping the list as the most populated country, followed by India. Rapid population growth is the bane of the economy of underdeveloped, poor and developing countries in the world. The population figures present an ironical situation: whereas North America’s area is 16% of the world, only 6% population of the world lives there but it consumes 45% of the world’s total income. On the other hand, Asia comprises 18% area of the world, but it is home to 67% of the world’s population. Still, it consumes only 12% of the world’s income. The situation in Africa is also more worrisome. Clearly, the areas with higher population remain socio-economically backward. Their residents get food which is not only insufficient, but is also not good in terms of nutrients.
Unbearable burden of population is clearly seen in four regions of the world – Southeast Asian countries in which China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, etc are the forerunners. The population of the region consisting of the Middle East and North Africa have also been expanding at a rapid pace over the past few decades. Latin America can also be reported to be responsible for sounding the warning bells for the world. Along with the population increase here, it is witnessing decrease in the quality of life of the people and increase in internal instability. In the sub-Saharan Africa, there is a rapid increase in population due to higher birth and fertility rates.
These above-mentioned areas of the world have been termed as explosive areas of population. Not only the population has increased more in these regions so far, but these areas will be liable to population increase even in the near future too.
Overpopulation in India
India is the second most populous country in the world, after China. Overpopulation is among the more serious problems that our country is facing, as it accounts for more than 1.20 billion people of the over 7 billion population of the world.
Interestingly, USA, that ranks 3rd in the list of most populated countries of the world, is inhabited by 311.1 million people who comprise just 1/4th of India’s population. This gap become even more astonishing when considered that the USA is three times larger than India in size.
Some of the Indian states outnumber several countries in population. Uttar Pradesh with a population of 166 million leaves behind the Russian Federation, home to 146.9 million people. Similarly, Orissa’s population exceeds that of Canada, and Chhattisgarh’s that of Australia.
Causes of Overpopulation
- Increased Life Expectancy: While the average annual birth rate in India, which was 42 per thousand in 1951-61, decreased to 24.8 per thousand in 2011, the country has seen its decadal death rate decline to 8.5 in 2001-2011 from 42.6 in 1901-1911. Since the death rate has also gone down sharply, the population has tended to grow very fast in India.
- Lack of family planning: If we add the number of miscarriages (6.20 lakh in 2010-11) in the country with an estimated number of births (2.05 crore in 2010-11) in one year, even in this age of family planning, one woman, on an average, is pregnant at any time in the age group of 15-45 years. All this happens because a large number of people in our country are illiterate with no awareness about the various advantages of family planning and the ill-effects of overpopulation on society.
- Early marriage: Child marriage is one of the major social problems of our country. Even today, a large number of boys and girls are married at an age when they are not prepared for family responsibilities either socially, emotionally, physically and mentally. Marriage at unripe age also leads to higher mortality rate of infants.
- Lack of education: The failure of family planning is directly related to large-scale illiteracy that also contributes to early age of marriage, low status of women, high child-mortality rate etc mentioned above. Uneducated families cannot grasp the issues and problems caused by the increasing population rate. They are least aware of the various ways to control population, usage of contraceptives and birth control measures.
- Religious reasons: The people who are conservative and orthodox are opposed to the use of family planning measures. Women in such families are not allowed to take part in family planning because they are not supposed to go against the wishes of God. There are also women who argue that children are born with God’s will and women are destined to give birth to children.
Muslim households have more birth rates than Hindu communities. Surveys among Muslims from time to time have found that despite the awareness of modern family planning measures, most respondents, both women and men, are against their use due to religious reasons and fatalistic outlook.
- Compulsions of poverty: Poverty is another reason for the increase in population in our country. Many poor parents produce more children not because they do not have the knowledge about contraceptives, but because they require children to assist them in earning their livelihood. It is clear from the fact that there is unending number of child labourers in our country. If poor families stop the children from working, their family income tends to fall way short of meeting their basic needs.
- Problem of mind-set: Generally, illiterate and uneducated children inherit their father’s behaviour and choose to give birth to as many children as is necessary to increase the income of their family. As a son is supposed to be the bread earner of the family, the poor do not mind producing any number of girl children in their desire to be ultimately blessed by a male child.
Effects of Overpopulation
- Burden on natural resources: Overpopulation leads to over-exploitation of natural resources. Increasing population puts further burden on the earth’s capacity to produce food and water and other natural resources. As a result, the underprivileged people have to suffer malnutrition, starvation and unhealthy living conditions Excessive increase in population leads to grave forms of pollution and deforestation.
- Rise in poverty: Overpopulation leads to the vicious circle of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. Lack of education deprives the people of the opportunities to earn their livelihood and fulfil the bare necessities of their lives.
- Widening the rich-poor gap: Overpopulation leads to an unequal distribution of wealth and income. Consequently, the gap between the rich and poor is widened further.
- Migration of Population: Migration is a natural human trait. When the burden of population in any area becomes imbalanced compared to the available financial resources, people tend to move away from their original location. It is comparable to the phenomenon of bee hive – when it is completely filled, flies leave it and go elsewhere. Similarly, human beings stop at one place for a time and then feel the urge to move on again. For this reason, human beings generally do not live anywhere permanently except for a few exceptions.
The impact of human transformation is especially felt in terms of culture, but economic effects are also important. People who make the change are often young people, while the old and the children follow them.
The following are some of the other similar problems generated by overpopulation:
Food and nutrition problems; housing problems; starvation and famine; infectious diseases and epidemics; increasing population pressure on the cities and development of slums; heavy burden on most resources; decrease in agricultural areas; continuous destruction of forests; threat to environment including wildlife; political instability, war, social evils and corruption, etc.
Preventing the rapid growth of the population is the key to the victory over poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, economic backwardness, etc in the modern world. The increasing population will only swallow the growing development of the nation and the benefit of advanced technology. Therefore, the following measures should be taken to curb the excessive growth in population:
- Family Planning: For a good, prosperous nation, it is necessary that its residents are healthy and their numbers are in sync with the country’s wealth. For this, modern methods and measures of family planning should be adopted. They should be propagated in a proper manner by the government, NGOs and civil society.
- Increase in marriage age: Minimum age of marriage of boys and girls should be increased. The age of marriage in India has been fixed for girls at 18 years and for boys at 21 years. It should be complied with firmly in all the states. For this, we require a strong political will, accompanied by an effective system of governance.
- Balanced ratio: It is also necessary to make qualitative improvement in the population. The gap between the children should be at least five years and the number of offspring should not exceed two children per family.
- Improvement in public health services: It is necessary to pay attention to public health and cleanliness to increase man’s economic capacity. In each state, emphasis should be on pollution-free and clean environment in urban and rural areas.
- Proper utilisation of land: To reduce the burden of the growing population, what is required is the scientific and proper planning of the land. To achieve this aim, it is necessary to emphasize on certain parametres:
- In the interest of the nation, small areas of land should also be used to their optimum limit.
- To fulfil various needs, land should be used for multipurpose production.
- Land should not be left unutilised for any reason.
- Appropriate changes in the use of agricultural land should be made in accordance with the demand for any item.
- Land use should be determined by considerations of workers, marketing and traffic related arrangements available and the value and quantity of commodities etc.
- There is a need to improve the land system and increase agricultural production.
- In agriculture, innovative technology should be used at all levels.
- In farming, equilibration should be maintained in composting, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides.
- New mixed and useful breeds of animals should be developed.
- Wastelands, dry and other useless and marshland lands should be made useful by continuously improving upon them.
- Need for education: To improve the condition of the farmers, they need to be educated and attached with some cooperatives. With the help of government, co-operatives and other useful institutions, the farmers continue to get the opportunity to learn about loans, proper agriculture methods, education and technology. They, thus, realise that illiteracy is a curse that leads to only deprivation and destruction.
- Proper industrialisation: In areas where industrial development has not reached yet, industrialization should be done promptly. Small and cottage industries should be encouraged, because small industries establish a necessary linkage and coordination between agriculture and large-scale industries, along with it between rural and urban income. By reducing the gap, they also develop other means of livelihood. This leads to the development of many subsidiary and new dwellings in the cottage and small scale sector. If small industries increase in the villages, they also absorb the burden of population.
- Proper government policies: Means of education, entertainment and employment should be increased. Our government needs to adopt such public policies that not only curb the uncontrolled growth of the number of persons, but also prevent unchecked migration of the population and the growing centralization of the people in urban areas. For the right population mix, adequate resources should be harnessed with provision of enough space and strong infrastructure.
- Promoting family planning: Spreading awareness about the contraception measures and birth control techniques is most effective method to keep the population within limit. We need to make people aware about benefits and ways of family planning in order to overcome the problem of overpopulation. It will also help them to understand the need of having one or two children at the most.
Family planning needs to be seen under its own right. Right measures will have to be implemented, force will not work, but only through discussions and persuasion, success can be achieved. Legal measures can be helpful but what is of urgent need is the social awareness and realisation of responsibility in society as a whole. Other suggestions include:
- Encourage interval method rather than sterilization in family planning programme.
- Age of girl child marriage should be raised further.
- Emphasis to be laid on economic development.
- Rapid awareness campaign to be run by the government and non-governmental organizations
- New, innovative contraceptives should be explored.
- Reduction in birth and fertility rates.
- Emphasis on gender parity priority for girl education.
- Empowering women: Any woman who has many children for parenting and who passes through child deliveries repeatedly spends most of her life as a mother and wife. She is imprisoned in the four-walls of her house. She cannot play any meaningful role in her community and society until she is able to limit her family to a proper size. Family planning will not only improve family welfare, but also contribute to achieving social prosperity and personal happiness.
- Raising awareness: Fast population growth in India hinders the progress and development of the country. Reducing the existing population is not possible but it is possible to check further rise in population of our country which can overcome the problem of population growth, through spreading awareness about overpopulation.
Once people know that unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, unhealthy living conditions, depletion of natural resources and environmental problems are all results of overpopulation; they will themselves take initiatives to control the population growth.
Unbridled growth of population is certainly a problem that our country needs to overcome. The government, NGOs and the people of the society have to work together to solve the problem of overpopulation in our country. Clearly, human beings need to stop overpopulating the world. The Earth has a limited capacity and we must not tear open its bowels to feed ourselves.