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Human Population and the Environment


Our global human population, has now surpassed 7 billion. It took about thirty
nine thousand years of human history to reach 1 billion, 130 years to reach
the second billion, 45 years to reach 4 billion and the next doubling is likely
within a span of a few decades.
Population Characteristics and variation among nations:

1) Exponential growth: Population growth takes place exponentially and

that explains the dramatic increase in global population in past 150 years.

2) Doubling time: The time needed for a population to double its size at a
constant annual rate is known as doubling time. It is calculated as follows:

Td = 70/ r

Td = Doubling time in years

r = annual growth rate of population

3) Total fertility rates( TFR); It is defined as the average number of

children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime if the age-
specific birth rate remain constant. The value of TFR varies from 1.9 in
developed nation to 4.7 in developing nations.
4) Infant mortality rate: It is the percentage of infants dies out of those born
in a year. Although the rate has declined in the past 50 years, but the pattern
differs widely in developed and developing countries.
4) Age structure: Based upon the people belonging to different age classes
like pre-reproductive (0-14 years), reproductive (15-44 years) and post
reproductive (45 years and above) population of any country can be
represented by age pyramids.It can be of three type:

1) Pyramid shape: Its indicates the positive population growth and

observed in nation like India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria etc. This is
characterize by more number of very young population.
2) Bell shaped: This indicates the stablize population growth nation. In
theses countries like France, USA and Canada the birth rate has decline in
last two decades and there by not much growth is likely for the people
entering into reproductive age group.

3) Urn shaped: In these countries like Germany, Italy ,Hungary, Sweden

and Japan, number of individuals in very young age is smaller than the
middle reproductive age class. So, indicating negative population growth in
future decades.
5) Zero population growth (ZPG): When birth plus immigration in a
population are equal to deaths plus emigration, it is said to be zero
population growth. Nations such as Japan, Italy, Greece are showing Zero
population or negative population growth.

6) Male-Female ratio: The ratio of boys and girls should be fairly balanced
in a society to flourish. In India this ratio is 933/1000, in rural area this ratio is
946/1000 and urban areas it is 900/1000.
Kerala is having the highest ration between states 1,058 and Haryana has the
lowest ratio of 861.

7) Life expectancy: It is the average age that a newborn infant is expected to

attain in a given country. In the last 100 years improved medical facilities and
technological advancement has
increased the average life expectancy
on global scale from 40 to 60.5 years
over the past century.

The unprecedented growth of human population at an alarming rate is

referred as population explosion. Population explosion is causing severe
resource depletion and environmental degradation. There are two very
important view on population growth:

1) Malthusian Theory: Human population tend to grow at an exponential or

compound rate whereas food production increases very slowly or remain
stable. He believes “positive checks” like famines, disease outbreak by
nature will stabilize the population growth rate.

2) Marxian Theory: According to Karl Marx, population growth is a symptom

rather than the cause of poverty, resource depletion, pollution and other
social ills.

The greatest challenge the world now faces is how to supply its exploding
human population with the resources it needs. It is evident that without
controlling human numbers, the Earth’s resources will be rapidly exhausted.
In response to our phenomenal population growth, India seriously took up an
effective Family Planning Program which was renamed the Family Welfare
At the global level by the year 2000, 600 million, or 57% of women in the
reproductive age group, were using some method of contraception. However
the use of contraceptive measures is higher in developed countries – 68%,
and lower in developing countries - 55%.

India and China have been using permanent sterilization more effectively
than many other countries in the developing world. The mass sterilization
programme (1975-77) of India become infamous also due to the way it was
carried out. Informing the public about the various contraceptive measures that
are available is of primary importance. This must be done actively by
Government Agencies such as Health and Family Welfare, as well as education
and extension workers.


In 1975 only 27% of the people in the developing world lived in urban areas.
By 2000 this had grown to 40% and by 2030 well informed estimates state that
this will grow to 56%. Globally, the number of cities with 10 million or more
inhabitants is increasing rapidly, and most of these new "megacities" are in
developing regions. Like many other demographic changes, urbanization has
both positive and negative effects.
Cities and towns have become the engines of social change and rapid
economic development. Urbanisation is associated with improved access to
education, employment, health care; these result in increase in age at
marriage, reduction in family size and improvement in health indices.
Urban population growth has outpaced the development of basic minimum
services; housing, water supply, sewerage and solid waste disposal are far
from adequate; increasing waste generation at home, offices and industries,
coupled with poor waste disposal facilities result in rapid environmental
deterioration. Increasing automobiles add to air pollution.


According to World Health Organization (WHO) health is “ a state of

complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the
absence of disease or infirmity”. Human health is influenced by many
factors like nutritional, biological, chemical or psychological.

1) Infectious organisms: Disease causing organism pose greater threats to

health, more severely in the developing countries especially in the
tropical one. Infectious organism can cause respiratory diseases
(pneumonia, tuberculosis, influenza etc) and gastrointestinal diseases
( diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera etc). Beside these various type of
parasites also causes disease such as malaria, filariasis, schistosomiasis

2) Chemicals: Food contaminated by chemicals is a major worldwide public

health concern. Contamination may occur through environmental pollution
of the air, water and soil. Toxic metals, PCBs and dioxins, or the intentional
use of various chemicals, such as pesticides, animal drugs and other
agrochemicals have serious consequences on human health.

3) Cancer and environment

Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells

that may affect almost any tissue of the body. Lung, colon, rectal and
stomach cancer are among the five most common cancers in the world for
both men and women.

More than 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the world every
year. It is estimated that there will be 15 million new cases every year by
2020. Cancer causes 6 million deaths every year – or 12% of deaths
Early detection and effective treatment is possible for a further one-third of
cases. Most of the common cancers are curable by a combination of surgery,
chemotherapy (drugs) or radiotherapy (X-rays). The chance of cure
increases if cancer is detected early.
4) Water-related diseases
About 2.4 billion people globally live under highly unsanitary conditions. Poor
hygiene and behavior pattern increase the exposure to risk of incidence and
spread of infectious diseases. There are 4 major types of water related

1) Water borne diseases: These are caused by dirty water contaminated by

human and animal wastes, especially from urban sewage, or by chemical
wastes from industry and agriculture. Some of these diseases, such as
cholera and typhoid, cause serious epidemics. Diarrhoea, dysentery, polio,
meningitis, and hepatitis A and E, are caused due to improper drinking

2) Water based diseases: Aquatic organisms that live a part of their life
cycle in water and another part as a parasite in man, lead to several
diseases. In India, guinea worm affects the feet. Round worms live in the
small intestine, especially of children.

3) Water related vector diseases: Insects such as mosquitoes that breed in

stagnant water spread diseases such as malaria, Dengue and filariasis.
4) Water scarcity diseases: In areas where water and sanitation is poor,
there is a high incidence of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, tetanus, etc.
which occur when hands are not adequately washed.

Environmental issues are closely linked to human rights. These include the
equitable distribution of environmental resources, the utilisation of
resources and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), resettlement issues
around development projects such as dams and mines, and access to health
to prevent environment related diseases.

The Universal declaration of Human Right (UNDHR) by the UN on

December 10, 1948 provide comprehensive protection to all individuals
against all form of injustice and human right violation.

On May 16, 1994 at Geneva, the United Nation drafted the first ever
Declaration of Human Rights and Environment, which embodies the right of
every human being to a healthy, secure and ecologically sound environment.
The main points of this drafts are:
1) Part 1: It deals with human rights for an ecologically –sound environment,
sustainable development and peace for all.

2) Part 2 : It mainly deals with human right related to an environment free from
pollution and degradation. It defines right to own native land or home.

3) Part 3: It deals with right of every person to environment education,

information, awareness and also public participation in environmental
decision making.

4) Part 4: It deals with the duties of states and citizens to protect and preserve
the environment and prevent environmental harm.

5) Part 5: This lay stress on social justice and equity with respect to use of
natural resources and sustainable development.

Value education in the context of our environment is expected to bring about a
new sustainable way of life. The different component of value education are
as follows:
1) Environmental Values:

The Western, modern approach values the resources of Nature for their
utilitarian importance alone. However true environmental values go beyond
valuing a river for its water, a forest for its timber and non-wood forest products,
or the sea for its fish. Environmental values are inherent in feelings that bring
about a sensitivity for preserving nature as a whole.

2) Valuing Nature:

We must appreciate that we belong to a global community that includes another

1.8 million known living forms. We need to develop a sense of values that
lead us to protect what is left of the wilderness by creating effective National
Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Most of the current environmental movement focuses on issues that are

concerned with the management of the natural environment for the ‘benefit’
of man, however Deep Ecology promotes an approach that is expected to
bring about a more appropriate ecological balance on Earth and is akin to a
spiritual approach to Nature.
3) Valuing cultures

Every culture has a right to exist. Tribal people are frequently most closely
linked with Nature and we have no right to force on them our own modern
way of life. We have to take measures to provide them with modern health
care and education that gives them an opportunity to achieve a better
economic status without disrupting their culture and way of life.

4) Social justice
As the divide widens between those people who have access to resources
and wealth, and those who live near or below the poverty line, it is the duty
of those who are better off to protect the rights of the poor who do not have the
means to fight for their rights. The developing world would face a crisis earlier
than the developed countries unless the rights of poor people that are
fundamental to life are protected.
5) Human heritage

Heritage preservation is now a growing environmental concern because much

of this heritage has been undervalued during the last several decades and is
vanishing at an astonishing pace.
6) Equitable use of resources

An unfair distribution of wealth and resources, based on a world that is

essentially only for the rich, will bring about a disaster of unprecedented
proportions. Equitable use of resources is now seen as an essential aspect of
human well being and must become a shared point of view among all socially
and environmentally conscious individuals.

7) Common Property Resources

The water that nature recycles, the air that we all breathe, the forests and
grasslands which maintain our climate and soil, are all common property
resources. The proper sharing and its management through community
participation is essential for these resource conservation.

8) Ecological degradation
Changes in land use from natural ecosystems to more intensive utilization
such as turning forests into monoculture forestry plantations, wetlands into
agriculture land leads to its degradation. carry an ecological price. There is
need for conserving such ecosystem before they get damage to a extent that
we cant replenish them back.

The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which mainly spread from infected
person to other individuals due to contact with tissue fluids during needle
sharing, blood transfusion and unprotected sex.

HIV can also pass from infected mothers to their babies during pregnancy,
delivery or breast feeding. HIV, however doesn’t spread through tears, sweat,
urine or by sharing utensils, towels, clothing's and insect bites.

AIDS itself does not kill humans, the HIV destroy or disables the T-cells in
the human body which are the key infection fighters in the immune system,
resulting into making human body more susceptible for the other infectious

The AIDS was discovered in 1983, however yet not sufficient information is
available regarding its primary source. Most evidence suggest that AIDS has
spreads from Africa and the virus has been transferred from primates like
African monkey or Chimpanzees.
Recent estimates indicates that about 40 million people are living with
HIV/AIDS worldwide and 70% of them are in Sub Saharan African region. By
2002, India had an estimated 3.97 million infected individuals. HIV/AIDS
has been identified as the fourth largest cause of mortality and about 3 million
people died due to HIV/AIDS in 2003.

HIV/ AIDS has a serious impact on the socioeconomic fabric of society:

1) Household income: If the working head of family suffers from AIDS it

reduces the household income which may have repercussions for every
member of the family such as Children may be forced to abandon their

2) Basic necessities : The poor households coping with members who are
sick from HIV or AIDS has to reduce spending on necessities such as
clothing, electricity etc. even further.

3) Food production: The AIDS epidemic adds to food insecurity in many

areas, as agricultural work is neglected or abandoned due to household illness.
Some studies shows that HIV/AIDS results into decrease in crop production by
20% in countries like Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Each year, close to eleven million children worldwide are estimated to have
died from the effects of disease and inadequate nutrition. Seven out of 10 of
childhood deaths in developing countries can be attributed to five main
causes, or a combination of them. These are pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles,
malaria and malnutrition.
Respiratory conditions:
Crowded ill-ventilated homes and living in smokey households with open
fires can trigger respiratory conditions especially in children. Pneumonia:
Acute respiratory infections (ARI), most frequently pneumonia, is a major cause
of death in children under five, killing over two million children annually.

Gastro intestinal conditions:

Contaminated water and food causes widespread ill health especially in
children. Two million children die each year in developing countries from
diarrhoeal diseases, the second most serious killer of children under five
worldwide. By promoting rapid and effective treatment through standardized
management, including antibiotics and simple measures such as oral
rehydration using clean boiled water with salt and sugar.

There is a close association between poverty, a degraded environment, and

malnutrition. Although malnutrition is rarely listed as the direct cause of death,
it contributes to about half of all childhood deaths.
Poor feeding practices - inadequate mother milk , providing the wrong foods,
giving food in insufficient quantities, contribute to malnutrition. Malnourished
children are more vulnerable to disease.

Women welfare:

Women, especially in lower income group families, both in the rural and
urban sector, work longer hours than men. The daily collection of water, fuel
wood and fodder is an arduous task for rural women.
Women are often the last to get enough nutrition as their role in traditional
society is to cook the family meal and feed their husband and children. This
leads to malnutrition and anemia due to inadequate nutrition.

The sorry plight of women includes the fact that the girl child is given less
attention and educational facilities as compared to boys in India.

The understanding of environmental concerns and issues related to human

health has exploded during the last few years due to the sudden growth of
Information Technology.

The Internet with its thousands of websites has made it extremely simple to
get the appropriate environmental information for any study or
environmental management planning which helped in increase public
awareness about environmental issues.

Specialized software can analyze data for epidemiological studies, population

dynamics and a variety of key environmental concerns. Some of the key
contribution of IT in environment and human health are as follows:

1) Database on Environment and Health: The ministry of Environment and

Forests, Government of India has taken up the task of compiling database on
various biotic communities. The comprehensive database includes wildlife
database, forest cover database. The MOEF established Environmental
Information System (ENVIS) in December, 1982 for providing information to
decision makers, policy planners, Scientists and research workers.
2) Geographical Information System (GIS) : It is a very important tool in
environmental management. GIS is a technique of superimposing various
thematic maps using digital data on a large number of inter-related or
inter- dependent aspects. Main application of GIS are:

1) It is useful in land use planning so provide important information for future

project development.

2) Interpretation of polluted zones, degraded ecosystem or diseased crop

can be made based on GIS.

3) GIS helps in providing correct, reliable and verifiable information about

forest cover, success of conservation effort.

4) It provide information about atmospheric phenomenon such as approach

of monsoon, ozone layer depletion, cyclone formation etc.

5) It can help in exploring new areas where navigation is difficult for human