Population & Environmental Degradation

Human being – the race claimed to be the only intelligent and rational creature inhabiting the planet. However, how rational it is for the so called ‘rational species’ to destroy their own habitat, their environment? Because, with the improvement of technology and the growth of population; human being, as a whole, is the main reason of degrading the environment. The population growth is the prime focus here as, in simple words, increase in population leads to the increase in demand of resources. As all the resources, in a way, are obtained from the environment; increasing the population growth leads to an extraction of resources that the earth cannot support. Moreover, the waste generated by the’ proud superior being’ are proved to be too much for the environment to sustain. Therefore, we are having an environment degraded in such a way that very soon many places of the earth would be impossible to inhabit.

Trend of Population Growth
In 20th century population grew in a way that is unprecedented; due to medical advances and enormous increase in agricultural productivity made possible by the Green Revolution. •

Historical growth trend:

Year 8000 BC 5000 BC 4000 BC 2000 BC 1000 BC 1 1000 1750

World 5,000,000 15,000,000 20,000,000 35,000,000 50,000,000 200,000,000+ 310 000 000 791 000 000

Year 1800 1900 1950 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005

World 978,000,000 1,650,000,000 2,518,629,000 3,692,492,000 4 ,434,682,000 5,263,593,000 6,070,581,000 6,453,628,000


Population & Environmental Degradation

In the 20th century, it has increased about four times which took a millennium before that. It is expected that by 2050 the population is expected to be more than 9 billion. This is equivalent to adding three more china to the world.

• Population growth rate:

The graph shows a declining trend from the 70s. Currently (2000) the growth rate is 1.14% and the peak was 2.19% in 1963.


Population & Environmental Degradation

• Population trend based on Demographic Distributions:
Population growth in the different parts of the world has shown different patterns of increase in population.

1750 World Africa Asia Europe Latin America and the Caribbean Northern America Oceania 100 13.4 63.5 20.6 2 0.3 0.3

1850 100 8.8 64.1 21.9 3 2.1 0.2

1950 100 8.8 55.6 21.7 6.6 6.8 0.5

1999 100 12.8 60.8 12.2 8.5 5.1 0.5

2050 100 19.8 59.1 7 9.1 4.4 0.5

2150 100 23.7 57.1 5.3 9.4 4.1 0.5

Chart: World historical and predicted populations by percentage distribution Region From DSW-Datareport 2006 ("Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung"): 1. China: 1.32 billion (about 20% of world population) 2. India: 1.12 billion (about 17%) 3. United States: 300 million (about 4.6%) 4. Indonesia: 225 million (about 3.5%) 5. Brazil: 186 million (about 2.8%) 6. Pakistan: 165 million (about 2.5%)


Population & Environmental Degradation

7. Bangladesh: 147 million (about 2.3%) 8. Russia: 143 million (about 2.2%) 9. Nigeria: 135 million (about 2.1%) 10. Japan: 128 million (about 2.0%) Chart: Most populous countries: as per 2006 report

Population Growth:
In recent past, with successful population control programs Asia could push a brake on the rate but Africa and Middle East could not. However, we have also seen negative growth rates in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern Africa. All is summarized in the following graph:


Population & Environmental Degradation

Environment Degradation
Environmental degradation occurs when the environment becomes less valuable or damaged. It happens because of the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. Causes of Environmental Degradation: The main factors responsible for environmental degradation are as follows: a) Growth of population beyond the threshold limit. b) Poverty facing the growing poverty. c) Urbanization of the growing population due to poverty. d) Pattern of economic development by the growing population. e) Market failure of environmentally friendly goods.

A. Population Growth beyond Threshold Levels Population is a major source of environmental degradation when it exceeds the threshold limit of the support systems. Unless the relationship between the multiplying population and the life support system can be stabilized, development programs, howsoever, innovative are not likely to yield desired results. Population impacts on the environment primarily though the use of natural resources and production of wastes is associated with environmental stresses like loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution and increased pressure on arable land. For example: India supports 17 per cent of the world population on just 2.4 per cent of world land area. It’s current rate of population growth at 1.85 per cent continues to pose a persistent population challenge.


Population & Environmental Degradation

B. Poverty The relation between poverty and environment is an extremely complex phenomenon. Inequality between the rich and poor may foster unsustainably because the poor, who rely on natural resource more than the rich, deplete natural resources faster as they have no real prospect of gaining access to other types of resources. C. Urbanization Lack of opportunities for gainful employment in villages and the ecological stresses is leading to an ever increasing movement of poor families to towns, which again creates urban poverty due to degradation of urban environment. Due to such migration, mega cities are emerging and urban slums are expanding. There has been an eightfold increase in urban population during the last century in the South Asian region. Such rapid and unplanned expansion of cities has resulted in degradation of urban environment. It has widened the gap between demand and supply of infrastructural services such as energy, housing, transport, communication, education, water supply, sewerage and recreational amenities, thus depleting the precious environmental resource base of the cities.

D. Pattern of Economic Development: The demand economic growth has taken forms of economic development which are causing environmental degradation. The manufacturing technology adapted by most of the industries in the industrialized nation has placed a heavy load on environment – through the following forms: a. Intensive resource and energy use, as is evident in natural resource depletion (fossil fuel, minerals, and timber), b. Water, air and land contamination, c. Health hazards and degradation of natural eco-systems. E. Market failure of environmentally friendly goods: The non existent or poorly functioning markets for environmental goods and services is causing environmental degradation to a huge extent. In this context, environmental degradation is a


Population & Environmental Degradation

particular case of consumption and production of externalities reflected by discrepancy between private and social costs (or benefits). On the other hand, market distortions created by price controls and subsidies may aggravate the achievement of environmental objectives.

Impact of Population on Environment
As the human population grows, the requirements for food, fresh water, energy resources also grow. As the number of population grows, human activities also increase and enormous human activities are the driving forces behind environmental pollution.

1. Effect on Water Resource Water is the world's most valuable and most wasted resource. It has no substitute and the balance between humanity's demands and the quantity available is already precarious. Only about 2.5% of all water on the planet is fresh water and only about 0.5 % is accessible through groundwater or surface water. In our world, 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. As water becomes scarce, the competition for water between cities and countryside intensifies. In North Africa, the Middle East and the region ranging from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east, virtually every country is experiencing water shortages. About 40% of the world's people live in regions that directly compete for shared water resources. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, use energy-expensive desalination to solve the problem of water shortages. Diseases associated with water rob people of health, nutrients, and livelihood. For example, about 90% of the diseases occurring in developing countries result from a lack of clean water. Worldwide, about 4 billion cases of disease are contracted from water and approximately 6 million deaths are caused by water-borne disease each year. During the dry season, the Ganges River has little water left when it reaches the Bay of Bengal. India, with more than a billion people taking the lion's share of the water, is leaving too little for the farmers of Bangladesh during the dry season. In central Asia, the Amu Darya, is now drained dry by the farmers in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As the sea has shrunk to scarcely half its


Population & Environmental Degradation

original size, the rising salt concentration has destroyed all fish, eliminating a rich fishery that once landed 100 million pounds of fish per year. We can deduce that population growth has been playing a major role in depleting one of the key resources of environment and as such many predict that the fourth world war will be taken place for want of water. 2. Air Pollution Air pollutants are Aerosol, Aesbestos, Carbon Monoxide, ChlorofluroCarbon (CFC), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), Lead, Mercury, Methane, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and so on. Many severe environmental effects such as acid rain, climate change, global warming, health effects, Heat Island Effect, risk assessment are all the direct outcome of air pollution. A lot of human activities are directly related to the sources of air pollution. The two main sources of pollutants in urban areas are transportation (predominantly automobiles) and fuel combustion in stationary sources. Countries that emit the highest amount of CO2 are as below: Rank of CO2 Emitters 1 2 3 4 Country United States China Russia India % of World population 4.55% 19.83% 2.14% 16.95% Rank on population 3 1 9 2

It is clear that, highest emmision of CO2 comes from through the top populous countries.As the number of people grows in a particular geographic area, the number of human activities will also be raised. As a result severe environmental degradation occurs in our biosphere. The WHO states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. Many of these mortalities are attributable to indoor air pollution. The UK suffered its worst air pollution event when the Great Smog of 1952 formed over London. In six days more than 4,000 died, and 8,000 more died within the following months.


Population & Environmental Degradation

3. Climate Change CO2 and other GHG trap heat in the atmosphere and raise average global surface temperatures. Emissions of CO2 grew 12-fold between 1900 and 2000. CO2 emissions are increasing by 4% a year. Potential effects of global warming are regional changes in climate, changes in biomes, changes in agricultural production, increase of diseases (i.e. malaria, dengue), rise of sea level and damage of ecosystem. Bangladesh is at great risk from global climate change due to its very low elevation. Climate change scenarios for Bangladesh depicts that the average temperature has been increased in both winter and monsoon seasons and precipitation has been increased in monsoon and has been


Population & Environmental Degradation

decreased in winter. Drainage congestion, water logging, saline water intrusion, erosion, accretion, and natural hazards are likely to happen in Bangladesh due to climate change.

4. Adverse Effect on Biodiversity: Scientific evidence supported that even the slowest growing species would cover the earth in a short time if its population growth were unrestrained. The exponential growth of the human population has a grave impact on biodiversity. The global impacts are: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) Over harvesting Alien species introduction Pollution Habitat fragmentation Outright habit destruction.

Humans are the most mobile of species and can live anywhere on earth. When they travel from place to place they often transport other species along with them, resulting in alien introductions. Prior to the arrival of humans, Hawaii had thousands of species of birds, and plants. Since the introduction of mongoose, rats, pigs and dogs and – as well as many species of plants, -- over half the bird species and countless species of snail have gone extinct. The introduction of rabbits into Australia, Asian fish species into Florida, is obvious examples of introduced species that eliminate the native animals and plants. More than 1.1 billion people live in areas (biodiversity hotspots) that conservationists consider the richest in non-human species and the most threatened by human activities. Marine ecosystems are under particular stress. Marine biodiversity has been harmed by over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction. Oil and waste spillage into the Persian Gulf is also having a growing impact.

Indonesia, India, and China are among the countries with the most threatened species of mammals and birds. Indonesia has the highest number of threatened mammals (135 species), followed by


Population & Environmental Degradation

India (80) and China (72). The Philippines has more critically endangered birds than any other country in the world.

5. Land Degradation and Desertification Land degradation is the first and perhaps the most irreversible form of environmental degradation. It is the temporary or permanent decline in the productive capacity of land. Once the bio-mass is stripped off, especially in the tropics, economic and social consequences are severe. Loss of habitat can lead to the extinction of species and the disappearance of indigenous groups. Agiculture has displaced one-third of temperate and tropical forests and one-quarter of natural grasslands. By most estimates, at least half of cultivable land is already being farmed. In Dubai, government have constructed large artificial islands. Netherlands reclaimed land from the water to increase their total land area. The productivity of lands has declined by 50% due to soil erosion and desertification. Soil degradation is a major concern in Africa, where 500 million hectares have been affected, including 65 % of the agricultural land. In Southern Africa, over-grazing of livestock is a major contributor to soil degradation. Large portions of Northern Africa are facing desertification caused by a combination of over-grazing, rainfall variability and drought conditions. 6. Impact on Ecological Footprint: This indicator identifies areas of high and low natural biological capacity and regions responsible for "ecological deficits", where resource consumption exceeds sustainable use levels. Asia and the Pacific's ecological deficit of 0.67 area units per person are partly attributable to its high population, which reduces biological capacity to 1.11 units.


Population & Environmental Degradation

7. Degradradation of Ecosystem Services: Ecosystem services are the benefits we get from the environment. They are the natural systems that sustain life . The types of services our ecosystems provide us with are varied: The maintenance of the atmosphere , climatic conditions suitable for human life and life supporting natural processes such as water purification, oxygen production and pollination Humans have made unprecedented changes to ecosystems in recent decades to meet growing demands for their need. These changes have weakened nature’s ability to deliver other key servicesof environment.

Impact of Population on the other Causes of Environmental Degradation

1. Population-Poverty Nexus: A high rate of population growth and population density in poor areas can aggravate the poverty problem. Some argue that environmental degradation and rapid population growth are both consequence of poverty. The search for fuel wood, water and other basic needs makes impoverished people unwitting agents of environmental change. Population growth holds down returns to labour relative to capital and other factors of production, depressing wages and worsening the income distribution. It is likely that most social scientists would accept that there is a connection between population growth and poverty. In particular, achieving lower fertility, at least in some circumstances is likely to help alleviate poverty.


Population & Environmental Degradation

CIA Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Country Mali Niger Uganda Somalia Afghanistan Yemen Burundi Burkina Faso Congo Angola

Fertility rate (2000) 6.89 7.16 6.96 7.18 5.87 7.05 6.25 6.44 6.92 6.52

Fertility (2007) 7.38 7.37 6.84 6.68 6.64 6.49 6.48 6.41 6.37 6.27


From the table, we can observe that there lies a relation between the fertility rate (a major indicator of population growth) and poverty as most of the listed countries are underdeveloped countries.

2. Unsustainable Resource Use: There are three main types of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. After food, fossil fuel is humanity's most important source of energy. As the number of population increases, this exerts more pressure on the reserve of fossil fuel. The biggest consumers are the United States, China, and the European Union, accounting for more than half of all fossil fuel consumption. With a


Population & Environmental Degradation

rapidly growing world population and burgeoning economic development across much of the world, issues of energy security and environmental degradation will likely grow increasingly.

1.Finland 2.Norway 3.Uruguay 4.Sweden 5.Iceland

2005 ESI rankings (Top ten countries) 6.Canada 7.Switzerland 8.Guyana 9.Argentina 10.Austria

Here, the top ten countries are successfully able to control population growth and as a reason population impact on environment is much lower.


Population & Environmental Degradation

Minimizing population problems relies on mainly controlling the growth of population. We can take following steps to control overpopulation. 1. Building awareness about population problems By building awareness we can minimize the growth of population. We need to aware the people about the impact of overpopulation on economy, society and environment. They should be well aware about the economic cost of having a baby. Producing media programs, serials, movies etc based on the theme of the problem of overpopulation and its control also can increase the awareness.

2. Empowering women:
If women in developing countries are given control over their resources and given credit for the work they do, they will not need the security that having so many children bring. Instead they will have a credible social status and control over their education, employment, and family size. When women have an equal share in earnings, independence, and freedom, they can live peacefully with men and will have fewer children by choice without being limited directly in their reproduction rates. 3. Providing knowledge about family panning: People should be educated about the family planning and its effectiveness. People have fear about the processes and methods of temporary and permanent birth control. People should be provided with proper knowledge about various physical methods and behavioral methods of birth control.


Population & Environmental Degradation

Misrepresentation of religious and social norms and superstition against family planning should be reduced.

4. Education: Education in schools will give way to knowledge that can help people improve their cities and villages economically which will lead to a life where children are not needed for financial support. When women are educated, there is an additional benefit in that they too will want to hold jobs. When women have jobs, this also leads them to have fewer children. In countries where no women are enrolled in secondary education, the average woman has 7 children, but where 40 %of all women have had a secondary education the average drops to 3 children.

5. Government policies:
Government policies should be revised such a way that the policies will help the nation to control over population. Where population growth is very high governments of these countries can go for policies which will limit the people of those nations to have extra babies. Laws regarding the minimum age of getting married should be revised according to the need of the nation to control overpopulation.

6. Foreign aid:
Foreign aid in terms of funding education and providing birth control in impoverished countries will help to decrease the birth rate. So while developed countries will provide foreign aid to overpopulated developing nations, they should also impose terms and conditions regarding birth control of these nations.

7. Improve the quality of medication service:


Population & Environmental Degradation

By providing better medication service in developing countries where infant mortality rate is very high we can lower the infant mortality rate in those countries. If infant mortality rate is reduced then the parents will be willing to take less number of babies.


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