Population explosion is one of the serious problems the world facing at present time, so does Bangladesh. The present world population is estimated to be more at 70000 millions of which Bangladesh accounts for a sizeable proportion, numbering about 170 millions. Bangladesh is the eighth largest country in the world in terms of population with about 6000 new heads adding on each passing day.
At the current TFR (Total Fertility Rate) of 2.7, the country will have 180 million people within next three years. The prospect is indeed horrifying to say the least. Shrinking farmland, dried water-bodies, polluted rivers and environmental disasters – all these ominous signs are likely loom on a scale never before known by human civilization. For the reasons like environmental degradation and climatic disruption as the researchers now point out, food production might decline. Worldwide water system and aquatic areas have already been seriously polluted allowing various diseases to spread and global fish catch to fall by 4 million tonnes every year since 1990. Alarmed at this prospect, officials and academics are now calling for radical overhaul in the country’s family planning policies. Since Bangladesh introduced a set of birth limiting policies in the late 80s, the population has almost doubled with merely a one third of the country’s total population remaining wretchedly poor and illiterate as well.With about 2.1 million new births a year, Bangladesh is adding more people to this land scarce country compared to other South Asian nations. The problem is assuming serious proportion, especially in the light of density of population that comes to about 1000 per sq. kilometre, quadrupling that in India and Pakistan. Experts believe that if the country could attain NFR (Net Fertility Rate) by 2020 the population might stabilize in 2070, allowing 170 million people to eke out a living with the available resources.
In the backdrop of a bleak scenario, with farmland fast dwindling and population figure booming, the economy is in close disarray causing escalation of restlessness in all forms. Population growth if not checked immediately would lead to an invasion of agricultural land and for construction of new townships. This will result in lesser food production and ecological imbalances. Energy crisis, housing problem, unemployment, health and education problem – all would become more acute. There will be human jungles all over with no space to move freely. This would result in crisis in every sphere of life.
In the rural areas, more children mean needing for more food. Paradoxically, with Bangladesh’s population growth rate running at 1.3 percent and enjoying a little demographic dividend over this population, nevertheless, it could stall all development works and ambitious mega-projects that the present regime is committed to implement by 2022. In order to contain the current population boom in the country, there are two key steps that need to be taken care.
High Investment in Education: Educating the adult population is the prime need of the hour. This would create an awareness in the rank and file of the people about the environmental degradation, climatic disaster, dwindling water-bodies, silting of rivers, loss of soil fertility due build-up of sediment and infiltration of saline water into farmland and also occurrences like global economic recession now drawing people’s attention.
On the other hand if there is a single key to population control in developing countries like Bangladesh, experts agree that it lies in improving the social status of women and thereby empowering them. So said Robert Berg, President of the International development Conference, “Expanding educational and employment opportunities to women is necessary for permanently curbing the population issue”. And to make all these efforts successful the government must ensure higher investment on education sector by recruiting qualified and committed teachers along with initiatives to develop physical infrastructure.
Controlling Rural – urban Migration: Unemployment situation in the rural areas of Bangladesh appears to be all the more worse. Vast tracts of land in the coastal areas of greater Khulna, Barisal, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar are being used for shrimp cultivation where agriculture is the mainstay employing a bigger chunk of population with fruits distributed evenly in all segments of the society. The mad rush of people from these areas and neglected parts of North Bengal towards the metropolis in quest of livelihood has given rise to new problem. Struggling to absorb the huge influx of people, Dhaka has now been over-burdened with population and traffic congestion, reducing it to one of the world’s most unlivable cities.The unmistakable message is that villages are no longer able to retain people by providing them with means of living. Non-farm activities and rural growth centres need to be developed in such way so as to absorb people of working age of those vicinities. Labour intensive industries such as cottage industries and farming mixed need to be developed in the rural areas with ensuring fair price of the products. No wonder the rising population is taking toll on our economy. At the same time the middle class citizenry are badly affected.
The growing impact of over-population is evident. In recent years children born out of poor parents, having no means to earn a decent living, no facility for education, health care and employment are seen loitering in the streets and market places with lethal weapons making lives of innocent people shaky and unstable. And this is amply evidenced by the rising number murders, extortion, drug-trafficking and kidnapping of people for ransom. Research has also shown that population explosion is positively related to youth unemployment.
Realising the fact that children are treasures of society, we should more concentrate on educating them. Hopefully, the present government is pledged-bound to bring all children to school by this year. Let us not busy ourselves in counting day in and day out, but ensure better lifestyle for all people of the country. That would be an effort worth-mentioning in bringing down the population boom as it worked in the case of Japan.
The writer is former Deputy General Manager of BSCIC