Over-consumption or Over-population: Which is the Bigger Evil?

Posted on January 20, 2011 in Society

By Tejaswini Pagadala:

With the population increasing rapidly in the world, one must be aware of the dangers associated with it. Some say “the more the human resources the more is the productivity”. But this notion doesn’t seem to work in today’s world. As the population increases, the demand for resources also eventually increases, which in turn increases the dependency of humans on various resources.

Overpopulation is not a myth. Steps should be taken to control population. With an aim of controlling population, intra-uterine devices (IUD), Norplant (Sub-dermal contraceptive), condoms and birth control pills for women is adopted. Permanent methods include vasectomy for men and tubectomy for women.

The population in India is expected to reach almost 2 billion by 2040 (an increase of 500 million in 50 years)

Before commenting on birth control methods, one needs to look at the causes of overpopulation. If a developing country like India, there are many factors which should be considered in order to study the population growth which has increased manifold in the past few decades.

The factors which directly or indirectly affect the population are:
1. Women and child health
2. Poverty and hunger
3. Environmental sustainability
4. Education
5. HIV and other diseases

Now, consider women and child health. Apart from looking at schemes like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) which includes providing supplementary nutrition to mothers and children, vaccinations, mother’s meetings, pre and post-natal care and pre-school for children below six, infant mortality rate (IMR), maternal mortality rate (MMR), child marriages, female infanticide, foeticide, human trafficking and sex work also affect population.

According to a report by International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), India ranks 11th in top 20 “hot spot” countries for child marriages in the world with 50 percent of girls less than 18 being married. The present IMR in India is 52 deaths per 1000 live births and MMR is 230 according to WHO statistics. Human trafficking and abduction top the list of crimes committed in the country. According to Child Rights Trust, 50 percent of women between 15 to 49 years of age suffer from anemia in India.

Poverty and hunger have been major problems in India. The gap between the poor and the rich is increasing day by day when it should happen the other way round. According to WHO report, 43.5 percent of children under five are underweight. And, farmers who produce crops go hungrier and poorer day by day.

Environmental sustainability is a major challenge globally. But, in India, with many burgeoning industries trying to establish their base in our country, environmental damage has been happening. In places like Singur, Nandigram, Kalinga Nagar, etc. people have been promised rehabilitation and have been displaced from their lands which has converted them into ecological refugees from ecosystem people. Proper water and sanitation facilities are accessible only to a handful of people in our country.

Though Right to Education (RTE) Act is brought into force, many children lack access to good education from the very basic level.

India tops the list in the world with highest number of HIV cases in the world. In fact, many diseases are caused because of sanitation, poverty and lack of proper health care systems.

Though India had a policy of hum do humare do in the 1970’s, it was largely criticized because of sterilization techniques which were proved fatal to many in the country.

In the film Something Like A War, doctor speaks about the three lakh operations he did in 13 years. He makes it appear as if it is something very normal, but with hindsight, those operations did not benefit many women as they had side effects and had to suffer from many other diseases. Especially diseases related to hormonal imbalance in women.

As India and China are compared to each other in terms of population or development, when we consider population, India’s population is said to exceed that of China’s. But in terms of development, India is far behind, violating basic human rights like right to water, food and proper sanitation. But China has managed to tackle these problems with proper planning and implementation of programs. Also China’s research and development sector has 4000 people working under a single project in the sector while India has hardly 40 people working under one project in this sector. This is not to condone China’s repressive and cruel one-child policy.

In terms of technology, sustainability and economic development, China is far ahead of India. What one has to look at is not China or India’s technological advancement, but development with inclusive growth.

According to Ramachandra Guha, development means “economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental sustainability”. Another definition he quoted was, “Minimization of suffering and maximization of welfare”.

But this concept of development can be followed through proper implementation of programs/ schemes on birth control, educating people about family planning. In the process, many uneducated people who are unaware of safe birth control methods take to sterilization processes, contraceptive pills which adversely affect their health worsening their condition.

Though fertility rate has dropped in the past decade, the existing population has to be aware of family planning and birth control methods in order to spread the word to the coming generations. Also, the existent population should use the available finite resources very carefully in order to survive on this planet.

For Example: A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and, in the unlikely event that those ten children all live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or me.
(Source: prospectmagazine.co.uk )

Like Fred Pearce says “The truth is that the population bomb is being defused round the world. But the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. It is over-consumption related to over-population that matters”.

Image courtesy: http://inchincloser.com/2010/04/06/2010-year-of-the-census-in-india-and-china/