The population explosion still not contained

  • The problem needs determined handling


By Nizar Ali Shah


Since its independence, Pakistan has grappled with many problems. The rapidly growing population is one of them, which has put a heavy burden on its resources. Currently, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with around 217 million people and a population growth rate of 2.4 per cent per year. Its population was 33 million in 1950 and its rank was 14th in the world, but now it has alarmingly increased. After China, India, the USA, and Indonesia, among others, Pakistan is now the 11th most populous country of the world. In terms of area, Pakistan is 34th and in terms of the Human Development Index, it has 147th position in the world. Its population growth rate is the highest at around 1.90 per cent. Each family in Pakistan on an average has 3.1 children.

Unfortunately, successive governments have paid no attention towards family planning and this was the apathy of the successive governments. Rapid population growth always outstrips development gains. If Pakistan had had the same population as at independence, it would be much more prosperous now if it had experienced the same development.

Pakistan is facing a formidable challenge of economic development and poverty reduction. If the population of Pakistan continuous to grow with the same rate, it is likely to double in the next 37 years, making Pakistan the third most populous country of the world; whereas the land area will remain the same. Rather the land that could be used for production of food will be reduced, due to conversion of some land to residential plots.

Currently, one- fourth of the country’s population lives below the poverty line and there is a low literacy rate, and a high fertility rate, which is higher in Pakistan than any other Asian country.

The most important of all the factors is that the government must have a strong political will to curb population growth; then it can do everything to remove the factors acting as obstacles in the way of family planning

Now there is a desperate need on the part of the government as well as the civil society to create an awareness programme through mass media highlighting the importance of birth control. We are facing various problems, such as water shortages, persisting electricity shortages, and a housing shortage. We are not able to provide the increasing number of people with jobs, healthy food and educational and health facilities. The rapidly growing population is also leading to social tensions. Besides, serious shortages of safe drinking water in cities and deteriorating sewerage systems in big cities such as Karachi are again major problems.

New projections by UNESCO indicate, that in the present scenario, one in four Pakistani children will not be completing primary school by the deadline of 2030.It shows the pathetic situation, where educational facilities are growing, but not fast enough for population growth.

Major factors responsible for high population growth in Pakistan are high fertility, low contraceptive prevalence ratio, high unmet need of family planning, decreasing mortality, customs of early marriages, son preference, illiteracy especially of women and lack of women empowerment, religious restrictions, beliefs, customs, traditions and lack of recreational activities.

Another significant factor is that while many urban and upwardly mobile couples would like to practice birth control, the availability of safe, yet certain, methods is not necessarily available. Health professionals sometimes lack the necessary training to provide the required information.

There is a direct relationship between educational attainments of females and choice of family size, as women reaching higher levels of education tend to opt for smaller families. The present government should focus on female education as well as for female empowerment. This will bring about behavioural change in the society, containing population growth.

Another purpose of education should be to prepare recipients for the workplace. There is the view that a growing population is not necessarily a bad thing, because every child is born with a pair of hands with which to feed himself. However, that would only be true if the growth in population also translates into a growth in the workforce. If that growth only means more mouths to feed, which are also unemployed, then it becomes a problem.

The most important of all the factors is that the government must have a strong political will to curb population growth; then it can do everything to remove the factors acting as obstacles in the way of family planning. Programmes should include a comprehensive awareness programme on print and electronic media highlighting the importance of family planning and ensuring access to quality health facilities, specially related to family planning control. Many other related factors, which have been described above, must be taken in to consideration without any further delay.


The writer is a social development specialist based in Chitral KP and a former programme development manager AKDN.