Each year, the eleventh of July is celebrated the world over as the World Population Day. It began as a celebration by the United Nations Population Fund in 1988, to mark the occasion of the world population hitting the 5 billion mark.
The aim of the day is to draw attention to issues related to population and the importance of resolving these issues. It also helps to focus on the impact of the growing population on developmental plans and the ensuing overall progress.
According to an UN estimate, the world population stood at 6.06 billion in the year 2000. It has however been increasing steadily at the rate of 78 million per year. Statistics predict that there will be between 7.3 billion to 10.7 billion people on planet earth by the year 2050.
Although population growth has eased world wide, 90% of the current growth is largely confined to developing countries where the needs of the people far outweigh the resources. These countries also have a huge unmet requirement for family planning services, which has failed to be addressed.
This year the United Nations has decided to focus on the 'Young and their Reproductive Health', as the youth of today hold the key to epoch- making changes in all aspects of sustainable development. The critical role of reproductive health in development was acknowledged by leaders at the World Summit, last year.Nearly half of the world's population is below the age of 25 years, of which nearly three billion will soon be of the reproductive age. Easy access to reproductive health, including family planning, adequate pregnancy care, measures to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and tackling AIDS/HIV, are some issues that need to be countered to ensure a better future for these young people.
Reproductive health problems are identified as the leading cause of death in women belonging to developing countries. 600,000 women die every year due to pregnancy - related causes while 90% of infants, whose mothers die during childbirth, do not survive beyond their first birthday.
The plight of women from these countries, including India, reflect a condition that has its underlying reasons in their social fabric of existence. These women are discriminated against, and are victims of male chauvinism even in issues regarding their marriage, fertility or making reproductive choices. They bear the brunt of unwanted pregnancies because their partners could be averse to the usage of condoms or because there is a lack of knowledge about contraceptives.
The need of the hour, therefore, is to create awareness among the target population on issues regarding reproductive health and also to provide easy access to information and care that they may need. An ongoing educational system is essential to bring conscientiousness in these societies about the concepts of sexual responsibilities and family life.
The earth has now entered the Anthropocene era where human beings are a dominating force. Although increased life expectancy and higher standards of living are indicators of the progress we have made, the pressure of the ever- increasing population on natural resources is bound to have unhealthy consequences. A four-fold increase in humans has lead to industrialization and unplanned land management, among others, leading to depleting natural resources and climatic changes.
The Question that needs to be answered is 'Do we want to leave behind a legacy of famines and plagues, barren land and illness?' If not, then serious measures are called for to tackle the spiraling population through political decision- making and by providing an international framework to address the issue.
'The one process ongoing, that will take millions of years to correct, is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendants are least likely to forgive us' ...E.O.Wilson