Figuring it out so far

There are many national emergencies — but contraception is the one nobody is talking about


Editorial August 27, 2017

It is unwise to extrapolate too much from the data coming out of the provisional summary results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017; but even the raw data is startling. It is 19 years since the last census when the population was a little over 130 million. There has been an increase of 57 per cent at an annual rate of 2.4 per cent, and unless that changes as in drops further and faster, then Pakistan is in trouble at an accelerating rate. There are fewer women than men and the reason for that is yet to be explored. Punjab remains the most populous province and Karachi the largest city — though not as large as some were predicting. This is still predominantly a rural population, and by a significant majority, and the urban population has only grown by a little over 3 per cent in almost two decades.

Demographers and statisticians are now going to have to work on the final analysis of the figures, hopefully by October, and if by then the numbers are settled it may be that changes can be incorporated in boundary divisions prior to the next election. Despite this there is much to ponder. Bluntly put — there are too many babies. Terrorism may occupy the attention of the media but the threat presented by overpopulation (coupled with an existential water crisis let us not forget) is far greater than anything that the bombers can inflict.

There were 27 million of us at the point of Independence. Today — over 200 million, a doubling every 25 years. If we continue to proliferate at the same rate in 25 years there will be 400 million. As the demographers point out exponential growth is not going to happen, but the decline in the birth rate to 23.19 in 2014 is not going to be enough to avert that figure of 400 million in a quarter century. On available resources and livable land that is unsustainable. Within the lifetimes of children born this very day there will be famine on an unimaginable scale. There are many national emergencies — but contraception is the one nobody is talking about.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2017.

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