India’s population to be two billion in less than a century?
Our population was just about 350 million in 1947, (Independence), but today we are all of one billion plus. By 2050 we’ll add half a billion more, and in another fifty years, another half a billion. That’s the scenario even if our nation’s fertility steadily declines. According to a study by the Population Foundation of India and its partner, the Population Reference Bureau, even if we gradually achieve our target of:
1) a replacement level of 2.1 kids per couple, there will be two billion of us by 2101, a little less than a hundred years from now.
But if (a more optimistic scenario) we manage to go beyond get to
2) 1.85 kids per couple, we will fall short of the two billion mark by 2104 and the population will continue to decline thereafter.
These are just estimates, and the authors of the study have warned that they are not forecasts as long-term forecasts can be difficult. Besides, these estimates have not taken into account changes in demography due to gender selection or HIV/AIDS deaths.
Other studies have been shorter term, but their forecasts have been similar. The 2006 National Commission predicted that India’s population will rise to 1.40 billion by 2026 and the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) said that it will be anything between 1.37 to 1.55 billion by 2025. The UNPD’s projection for 2050 is between 1.39 to 1.96 billion.
Populations of some states will shrink
Today the national average per couple is about three kids, and while this is better than the 1950’s average of 6 kids, there are states which even today have an average of about 4.3 kids, Bihar for example. Kerala has an average of less than 2. Naturally, populations of states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu will start to shrink (the table is given at the end of the post) in another 50 years or so (seems a long time away!) and Kerala’s perhaps before that. Uttar Pradesh on the other hand, will become home to a quarter of all Indians…in less than a century.
But this change of demographics could well bring into play another unknown factor…when populations start to decline, governments start to offer incentives to increase the population. This could start to happen in the low population states, and if this happens, India’s population could swell to more than two billion in another hundred years.
In any case, these projections do not take into account natural disasters, mass migrations, war, disease or in fact any other external influencing factor.
Population density is the problem
Our land mass is smaller than China’s and that is a problem. China is heavily populated (1.3 billion in July 07), but as the map to the right shows, their population density is lower. And in any case, their population seems to be in control as the government is taking strong measures. Well, being a democratic nation, forcing people to adopt a one-child policy will never work here!
Can India cope?
Well, overpopulation is a condition “when an organism’s numbers exceed the carrying capacity.” Will India be able to carry its people? I don’t have an answer.
This is what happens with increasing population:
1. Destruction of natural habitats of many species.
2. Increasing number of deaths from illnesses associated to organic wastes.
3. Higher consumption of energy, and more pollution.
4. Shortage of water.
5. Possible increase in crime, hunger, and disease
This article also mentions the “release of millions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals into our air and waterways.”
Amit has a good post on this subject. He’s written about pollution from synthetic cleaners and how the cleaners we use “contain toxic synthetic chemicals” and are not biodegradable. He writes:
That means once the cleaner made of synthetic chemicals is poured down the drain, instead of breaking down, it will remain in the ecosystem for many years, continuing to pollute the environment (soil and water) and cause damage.
Can you imagine two billion people doing this sort of thing…pouring tons and tons of poisonous stuff into the drains? I shudder to think of it! Time to go green as Amit suggests. There are some herbal cleaners available in India. And I think imported ‘green’ cleaners are also available in India now.
In fact the only way we can stop ourselves from being consumed by such a huge population is if we become more efficient in food production and manage our environment better. Well, I guess thats obvious!!
Just to tickle your brain, I want to leave you with a chart which gives an estimate of the share of the population of different states in the distant future. Note how population as a percentage of the whole starts to decrease at different times in the different states, while in some states it doesn’t.
(Thanks to Vivek Khadpekar for passing on the population study. Map is from the wiki and has been linked to the original. The photo of the street market is taken by me)