Sunday, November 6, 2011

World Population Crosses 7 Billion Mark: India To Become Most Populous Nation

The world's population touched another milestone on 31 October 2011 as India welcomed the birth of baby Nargis as the "symbolic" seven billionth baby, who was born at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh).
The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), in a recent report titled “India@7 billion”, described the country as a “population billionaire”. India (with about 1.21 billion people at present) is expected to overtake China (1.34 billion) by 2025 to become the world’s most populous country. The UNPF found that the probability of the seven billionth child being born in Uttar Pradesh was high. Every minute, 51 babies are born in India, 11 of them in Uttar Pradesh.
Developing countries with higher population growth rates are often viewed as the source of an emerging environmental crisis. That perspective is narrow and flawed, given the patterns of resource consumption. China reigns as the most populous country, but India will surpass it in 2025 with 1.46 billion people, with the numbers expected to exert enormous pressure on national resources.
That 11 babies of the 51 born in India every minute are, like Baby Nargis, born in Uttar Pradesh, among the lowest ranking Indian States on the Human Development Index, highlights the imperatives for Indian planners: providing access to food, water, health, shelter, sanitation, education and jobs to all; at the same time, balancing these against scarce resources, safeguarding the environment and protecting against climate change.
The birth of Nargis has given a new resolve to her father Ajay, who now wants to work for creating awareness among the people about nurturing the girl child and wants his daughter to become a doctor.
In 2001, there were 80 million elderly people in India. Billimoria belongs to the Parsi community, which represents a separate problem of a vanishing people: Parsis now number around 60,000 in India; Kolkata counts only 600 among its residents.
The UNPF estimated that in 2001, as many as 30 million elderly lived alone. The number of elderly is expected to increase to 173 million by 2026. The other, perhaps more important, challenge is the falling sex ratio and the “vanishing” girl population. The 2011 census showed a steep fall in the sex ratio, from 927.31 girls for every 1000 boys in 2001 to 914.23 a decade later.
Global Fertility Rate
The global fertility rate - the number of children per couple - is about 2.5, but in richer countries this number has already nosedived. And while exact predictions vary, most suggest the global population will peak at about nine to 10 billion around 2070 and then start to fall, perhaps swiftly.
In fact, food Today, approximately a billion people suffer from malnutrition. Investment in agriculture is not keeping pace with population growth. Nearly 30 years ago, about 25 per cent of US foreign aid went to agriculture. It is now 1 per cent. The UNPF states that to feed the two billion more mouths predicted by 2050, food production will have to increase by 70 per cent.
However, in many nations, fertility is high because women are poor, face sexual violence and have limited access to family planning. In Kenya, says the UN, 43 per cent of pregnancies are unwanted, and at least 2,600 women die in hospitals after back-street abortions. In Somalia, where 70 per cent are under 30, only 1 per cent of married women have access to modern contraception.
Other View
Someone has rightly pointed out that individuals in poor nations need choice, not control. Where life is uncertain, people want big families because there are so many jobs to do - fetching water from distant wells, collecting firewood, tending herds. Children are the only life insurance available in your old age. When half your children die before the age of five, it makes sense to have lots. Big families are a symptom of poverty, not a cause.
Moreover, if we see history, it tells that a sustained fall in birth rates is always preceded by a significant fall in child death rates. Women in poor communities do not just need family planning they need full health services. They need rights to food, water, justice and fair wages alongside reproductive rights. Women's literacy programs are what reduce infant mortality and birth rates. That was obvious in India if you compared States like Kerala with the more impoverished northern States
India Faces Daunting Task
The one thing that is certain is there will be more mouths to feed, especially in countries with little resources. Key energy sources are unevenly distributed, with little access for the poor. China reigns as the most populous country, but India will surpass it in 2025 with 1.46 billion people. “India will continue to grow to about 1.7 billion by 2060 before beginning to decline,” the report predicts. A large chunk of the world’s population is based in these two nations.
Moreover, India's decadal population growth rate, which touched a high of over 24 per cent in the 1970s, is slowing down. According to the 2011 Census, it was 17.64 per cent in the past decade. That presents both opportunities and challenges. India will not only need to keep its young population usefully employed, but also needs to plan for an ageing population.
Demand of Situation
The population question is complex and there is no panacea for the travails of hundreds of millions of deprived citizens who need food, shelter, safe water, and energy. It is distressing that more than 800 million people live in slums and a similar number, mostly women, are not literate. In the popular imagination, growing populations can only have a negative outcome, depleting scarce resources faster — more so in an era of economic uncertainty.

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