July 11: Marking the World Population Day

Binod Kumar Pathak

July 11, 2019

Reading Time: 6 minutes

July 11: Marking the World Population Day
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World Population Day is observed every year on July 11 for raising awareness on global population issues. The Governing Council of the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) set up this event in 1989 in wake of challenges posed by the rise in world population when it reached the five billion mark on July 11, 1987.

The Day was first marked on 11 July 1990 in more than 90 countries and now almost all the member states of UN (United Nations) observe the World Population Day. The day 11 July brings the urgency and importance of population issues into the focus of our attention through debates, discussions, seminars, conferences, writings and what not. On World Population Day, advocates from around the world call on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organizers, institutions and others to help make plans for population management, introduce population education in their respective countries and use demography for balancing the mismatch between resources and population in a region. They are exhorted to ensure reproductive health and other related rights a reality for all.

According to the United Nation Population Fund (UNPF), world population reached 7 billion-mark on October 31, 2011. It was the year 1804, the landmark year when world population for the first time reached one billion. Just in little more than 200 years’ time, the world population in its gross numbers has seen around 7-time upward rise. It is astounding. The global human population is currently growing at 1.07% annually and the planet Earth is adding around 83 million people every year to feed and nourish them.

Annual growth rate reached its peak at around 2% in the late 1960s. With the alarm raised regarding high birth-rate, the rate of increase in the global human population has nearly halved since then. Thanks to efforts taken by the nation-states and the world bodies, global birth-rate is declining every year and will continue to be so in the coming years. But, there are areas of concern regarding unchecked high birth-rate in the developing and the least-developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America where resources are scarce and are disappearing under the pressure of population. Miseries are visible all around in these countries in the form of poverty, starvation, unemployment, diseases, civil riots, epidemics and so on. Amongst other contributing causes of these miseries, unchecked population rise and its mismanagement are also playing the role.

World population will, therefore, continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a much slower rate compared to the recent past. Even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline, the global population is not going to be any lesser than 8 billion in 2030, 9 billion in 2050 and 11 billion in 2100.  The reason is statistically based and follows the basics of mathematics. World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will take nearly 40 years to increase by another 50% to become 9 billion by 2037. The latest world population projections indicate that world population will reach 10 billion in the year 2055 and 11 billion in the year 2088 a decade earlier than we enter the 22nd century.

Just imagine the pressure on the challenges involved before all the nation-states regarding smart management of their population before it really takes the sight of ‘population explosion’. In such a case, Earth and growing numbers of ‘human hands’ turn out to be ‘curse’ as to gradually reduce the ‘elbow room’ we enjoy till now in a literal sense to congest all of us to starvation, diseases, war, struggle and finally untimely death. The unmanaged population left behind in poverty, illiteracy and diseases are not human resources rather it turns out to be ‘population bomb’ ready to explode to finish all sparing none by way of mutual destruction. This is why it is called a situation of population explosion.

What a gory end of humans if we continue to live oblivious of the dangers lying ahead of continuously rising human population on the Earth! We stand together on this very day on July 11 to take the pledge and show a much stronger commitment to taking all the necessary measures for population management as ways to improve quality of human life all over the world particularly in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin and Central America. This is the time when both ‘population education’ and ‘population studies’ must be taken into consideration for managing the fast eroding resources of planet Earth and preserve its ecology in all its forms and sizes so that humans can live longer with their ever-growing capacity to contribute.

Population education focuses on the impact of various population factors on the lives of individuals and the societies in which they live. Population education explores the interrelationship between the population and other aspects of life. We must understand here that the human populations are not just numbers to be used in statistics. Human population deserve to be understood well, managed smartly and treated with care. That is why ‘population studies’ holds enormous promise to recognize where the problems of mismatch between resources and rising numbers of human mouths lie and how to solve them. The statistical study of population is known as demography. It is the study of the size, structure, and distribution of the population and also includes the trend of population change due to birth, death, migration, and aging.

Usually, a theme is chosen by the UN council to observe the population day every year. For example, the theme for 2018 was “Family Planning is a Human right”. However, this year in 2019 AD there is no specific theme presented in a catchy slogan rather the world population day will highlight unmet goals of 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which took place 25 years ago in Cairo in which 179 countries had participated to agree among other things on ”reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development”. Somewhere around 20,000 delegates from various governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and the media gathered way back in 1994 for a discussion of a variety of population issues, including immigration, infant mortality, birth control, family planning, the education of women and protection from unsafe abortion services. The conference delegates achieved consensus on the following four qualitative and quantitative goals:

  1. Universal education: Universal primary education in all countries by 2015 with more emphasis on women education at least till secondary and higher level along with vocational and technical training.
  2. Reduction of infant and child mortality: Every country should strive to reduce infant and under-5 child mortality rates by less than one-third deaths per 1000 in the coming years.
  3. Reduction of maternal mortality: No mother should die while giving birth to a baby and maternal mortality must be narrowed down as far as possible.
  4. Access to reproductive and sexual health services including family planning: A range of issues and items fall under this such as family-planning counseling, pre-natal care, safe delivery and post-natal care, prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility, prevention of abortion and the management of the consequences of abortion, treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health conditions, reproductive health and responsible parenthood, services regarding HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, infertility, discouragement of female genital mutilation (FGM) and others.

Now come to Nepal for comparing its growth rate of population with the global growth rate. According to the population projection given by World Bank, Nepal has a total population not lesser than 30 million in 2019. A country with a total area of 147,181 km2 (56,827 sq. mi), Nepal’s population growth at present matches with global population growth rate i.e. 1.7% which is showing a likely decline in years to come. Kathmandu-the capital city of Nepal is the country’s largest city as it is a highly populated urban center of Nepal with over 3 million people living here. Nepal, though rapidly urbanizing, is still a country of villages and around 80% of the total population of Nepal live in rural areas. The average age of its citizens is 21.6 years, of which the median age of men is 20.7 years and for women 22.5 years. Only 4% or less of the populations are estimated to be over the age of 65 years. As Nepal is expecting to step up its economy with an annual growth rate of national income by 8.5%, it is good news for Nepal that as high as about 57.9% of the total population lies in the age group of 15-65. It is the the age group mostly engaged in economic activities.

The total population of women in Nepal is slightly higher than that of men. Therefore, sex balance is not skewed unnaturally in favor of men like other south Asian countries and China. The last national population census of Nepal was conducted in 2011 in which the total population stood at 26.5 million (26494504 to be exact) in which male population shared 49% of the total population while female took 51% of the share. The next population census is slated to take place after two years in 2021. The population growth rate in Nepal is expected to come down to 1% by 2025 and will further slide down to 0.5% by 2040. In this way, the total size of the population of Nepal will be somewhere 33,167,612 in 2030.

The twentieth century has been the era of wars, violent conflicts, diseases, epidemics, natural calamities and so on. Yet, global population growth from 2 billion in 1927 reached 6 billion in 1999. Now the world is all set to have 11 billion on this planet by the end of this century. Isn’t it time to seriously think about the management of available resources of the Earth in face of the growing population every year? Is population bomb ticking to explode any time? Let us ponder over it on the World Population Day today on July 11.

 

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