Population boom in Punjab: a growing threat

The government alone cannot perform enough to achieve the goal of a reduced population

Qudrat Ullah July 29, 2017
The writer is a Lahore-based public policy analyst. He can be reached at qudratulla@gmail.com

Continued and unchecked increase in population has emerged as a major internal threat constantly ignored by successive governments in Pakistan. The country has one of the highest birth and child mortality rates in the world. The population explosion has created many problems for policymakers, including unemployment, poverty and terrorism.

Punjab, the largest province population-wise, is the real victim of this problem. Punjab’s population has increased by five times in the last 67 years and is estimated to be more than 103 million today. Based on present growth patterns, demographic experts believe that the population is expected to double after 36 years. Such a heavy human load in the wake of low socioeconomic indicators has not only diluted the results of various development efforts, but also created an unacceptable level of demand on limited resources to meet the requirements of a mounting population. A majority of Punjab’s population is under the age of 30, which means they all need quality education and jobs to grow and prosper. Demographic experts contend that there is an opportunity for economic growth by reducing the fertility rate and consequently, the population growth. Future fertility levels, contingent upon family planning efforts, will determine whether the population of Punjab will rise to 140 million or 188 million by 2050. In this situation, the provincial government will also seek to improve the performance of Lady Health Workers Programme by improving incentives, monitoring their activities and providing them with an adequate supply of inputs. To meet the growing needs of family planning and tackle inequality within the province, engagement of population welfare mobile units, community volunteers and subcontractors is also important.

Considering the growing population, investing in rapid fertility decline through a strong family planning programme could make a difference of 48 million more people by 2050. Different studies show that family planning is closely related to human development and economic growth. Fortunately, there is an opportunity today because most married couples in Punjab realise that family planning is a viable, affordable and effective mechanism to improve health and educational outcomes, and escape poverty. Punjab remains committed to provide universal access to quality reproductive healthcare and has taken steps for youth development and women’s empowerment. It has aimed to adopt an integrated approach to service delivery involving public and private sectors. Knowledge sharing, innovative approaches and strategic partnerships are the route to achieving Family Planning-2020 Goals.

Since 2012, the Punjab government’s spending on family planning has increased seven fold to $8.6 million. It has established the Punjab Population Innovation Fund with an allocation of $4.3 million to award grants supporting innovative, locally responsive, scalable and sustainable family planning and reproductive health initiatives. The provincial government’s health system is now more involved in the delivery of family planning services to people in Punjab. Meanwhile, the services of 45,000 community outreach workers of primary healthcare have also been regularised throughout the country. The social franchising of clinical services is being piloted in collaboration with non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Mobile service units are being used to reach far-flung and remote areas of Punjab. Similarly, studies show that the societal role of men and other gatekeepers in reducing unmet needs of women is also very important. The Punjab government has, therefore, spent almost $2 million on an awareness campaign with strong endorsement from eminent religious scholars.

But more is required to meet the unfulfilled needs of five million families in the province. The government alone cannot perform enough to achieve the goal of a reduced population. Several sectors must work together to meet the rising population challenges. The government should remain determined to ensure cross-sector synergies between different departments.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2017.

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Sindhi | 6 years ago | Reply I guess Karachi will become the lebensraum for Punjab. God help us !
ajay gupta | 6 years ago | Reply Weird logic. punjab is not the victim. It is the culprit or the perpetrator.
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