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EDITORIAL: The World Population Day was observed on July 11 as the global population stood at 7 billion. The birth rates are falling in affluent societies of Europe, North America, Japan and China, presenting them with a host of challenges as their populations are getting old and the number of young people working to pay for pensions, healthcare, and contributing to technological innovations is declining.

But populations are growing fast in developing countries, including Pakistan and India, which is soon to overtake China, as well as most countries in the African continent. That comes with huge problems in terms of food security, water scarcity, and changing weather patterns brought on by global warming.

The fertility rate per woman in this country is around 3.56, much higher than the 2.1 replacement level. This excessive growth rate correlates with lack of educational facilities — Pakistan has the lowest literacy rate in the whole of South Asia — and gainful employment as people in disadvantaged sections of society tend to have several children to supplement family incomes and take care of parents in old age.

Still, many of them like to have fewer children so as to provide them with a better chance to improve their lives, but end up having unwanted pregnancies due to lack of access to contraceptives. Religious beliefs are also invoked by clerics to assail birth control.

However, other Muslim countries, such as Bangladesh and Iran, have made remarkable progress in arresting population growth. Pakistan needs to learn from their experiences, especially Bangladesh’s where the government co-opted local clerics at village level and made contraceptives available all over the country.

Regrettably, no one in government at the Centre or in the provinces seems to be concerned about the alarming rate at which the population is increasing and what it means for future.

Pakistan is already facing foods scarcity. An estimated 10 million children have inadequate or poor quality food leading to stunting of physical as well as mental growth. Sadly, child wasting has reached emergency levels. This is an untenable situation.

The problem is going to aggravate as population further inflates unless the government pays it serious attention. Planned Parenthood ought to be encouraged through easy access to information and contraceptives to young families, especially women.

All children should be provided with free and compulsory education as stipulated by the Constitution. That is the only way to avoid hunger, reduce poverty, and deal with the effects of climate change. Our policy planners need to realise that without population control — as pointed out by many, including former finance minister Miftah Ismail — the sustainable development goals will remain a pie in the sky. The issue must be fixed before it is too late.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Azeem Hakro Jul 13, 2023 08:31am
Sir, the government should think about making a rule that says each family can have only two children. If someone doesn't follow this rule, there may be punishments like not being able to use some government places or services. But for families who have only two children, the government should give them money to help take care of their children. The government needs to make strict rules like this so that the population can decrease.
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Tariq Qurashi Jul 13, 2023 02:07pm
The unspoken elephant in the room is our population. We have to create more and more infrastructure, income and jobs just to stand still. This is just not sustainable. We need to provide good quality family planning services at peoples doorsteps through our Rural Heal Centers. At present there is considerable unmet demand for contraceptive services, and this gap has not been filled. We had 35 million people at independence, and now we have 250 Million. This needs to be controlled as a priority or we will all starve. In fact our children are already starving!
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KU Jul 13, 2023 02:39pm
We are too late and the current 250 million population cannot be fed with what we presently produce. This ticking bomb is already bursting in small proportions all over the country, and one can witness this in the shape of unemployment/hunger resulting in crimes and a law and order situation. It seems the future has caught up with us, and the neglected socio-economic development is taking a toll. The repeated failure of successive governments to ensure economic development and highlight the importance of population control is shameful, yet the same leaders persist to lead us to a logically painful conclusion.
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