We’re Growing, And How!

We’re growing at rapid pace and may run out of living space 

Twenty-six years ago the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) designated July 11 as World Population Day. It did so to highlight both the challenges posed by population growth and the benefits of expanding access to family planning and reproductive health services.


The need for family planning services and information is as compelling today as it was 26 years ago. While fertility rates have fallen sharply in the past quarter century, world population continues to rise. At the time of the first World Population Day in 1989, world population was 5.2 billion. Today it is 7.4 billion and projected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050. India’s population alone at sands at 1.327 billion, thereby making up 17.5 % of global population.


RITZ spoke to some of South India’s strongest voices to understand what they had to say of the world’s growing population:

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw , Biocon Chairperson & Managing Director

“While the educated, urban Indian woman is increasingly asserting her rights, awareness about reproductive rights amongst women in rural India is definitely sub-optimal. This is evident from the fact that one in six women aged 15–19 in our country have begun childbearing despite the minimum legal age to marry for women being 18 years. Lack of awareness about reproductive rights makes them susceptible to numerous health, social and economic problems, while robbing them of the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Awareness campaigns by the government need to address regressive cultural mind-sets that seek to deny women the freedom to decide if, when and how often to reproduce. Instead of solely focusing on population control, women’s reproductive health programs should also promote gender equality, sexual choice and reproductive rights. Also, reproductive rights should not be seen in isolation but in the context of the right to freedom from gender discrimination.”

KS James, Professor in Demography, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

“The awareness levels pertaining to reproductive rights in India are still quite low. The reproductive health for women still remains in a narrow boundary of receiving maternal and child health services. The very high prevalence of violence against women, particularly domestic violence and the poor quality of services in many health facilities all show that the deep understanding of reproductive rights remains a distant dream.

Prof K S James

Undoubtedly, the government has to play an important role in ensuring that reproductive health is provided to the large sections of the population. Although the government is committed to this through several schemes since the mid-1990s, many of the schemes are not properly implemented. Therefore, what is important is to ensure that an appropriate implementation mechanism is brought in through community participation and particularly through women’s groups. The private sector is also a main player in the provision of health care services in the country, but only remains at the clinical level. Reproductive health and rights go far beyond the clinical, and involve more preventive, promotive and even rehabilitative care. Therefore, private sector needs to extend its services to a wider level considering the societal needs.”

Soumini Jain, Mayor of Kochi

“If you look at any of the issues that are taunting the city today, be it waste disposal, drinking water scarcity, commercialisation or encroachment of coastal areas, the underlying cause would be ‘over population’. A small and unplanned city like Kochi is the best example to showcase the impact of an exponentially growing population on dwindling resources. Every area should have provisions for pipelines to be laid for drinking water, roads, sanitation facilities etc. but the lack of space for the growing numbers makes it impossible to make this practical. One of the solutions would be to move the commercial warehouses, factories and industries to the outskirts of the city. This way, population would be spread out and the city will be able to breath. Environmentally, I feel there should be a law that every compound should plant a tree for all the benefits it offers.

sowmini jain kochi mayor

We have had to cut down trees for many developmental projects and the green coverage needs to be restored. As individuals, we must do our part – simple things like trying to save the soil will go a long way in helping the environment. We must stop filling our lands and gardens with concrete. Rainwater doesn’t seep into the groundwater through the concrete, instead it flows into the drainage and this excess water from multiple buildings leads to flooding during monsoons. We could use eco-friendly methods like interlocking tiles that lets the water seep into the ground. Also, in a day and age where pollution is at its peak and natural resources are getting depleted at a rapid pace, it is important that parents are made aware of family planning.  What matters today is not the number of children but the quality of life that we can offer them.”

Dr. K C Zachariah, former UN Expert in Cairo Demographic Centre, Egypt

(He was the first Senior Demographer with the World Bank and was in charge of bringing out population projections for countries around the World. Professor Zachariah has published more than 30 journal articles, 20 books, 25 working papers both individually and jointly)

 “Increasing population will eventually lead to scarcity of food supply distribution and clean drinking water. This in turn will induce migration. People will have to move from one country to another in search of better living conditions. This kind of migration demands political decisions and leads to civil tensions as well.   The process has already begun. Even within India, we are witnessing migration from the North to the South.  This was not the case a few decades or half a century ago. For example, Kerala supplied nurses to all parts of India but now, the situation has changed and will continue to change as each year passes by.

Another matter of concern is the lag in demographic transition. Demographic transition is the decline in fertility rate and mortality rate as the country develops. This affects the population growth.  Currently, countries are in various stages of Demographic transition. The developed countries like US and UK have almost completed the process, while developing countries like India are still half way through. Africa will probably be the last to complete the transition. This lag in transition also puts pressure on the environment.”

Dr. C K Rajan, professor in Charge of ‘Chair for Climatic and Environmental Changes and Risk Reduction” at School of Communication and Management Studies, Cochin

(He was the Director, Centre for Monsoon Studies (CMS), Cochin University of Science and Technology. He has rich experience in teaching and research in the field of Meteorology and Oceanography, has served with India Meteorological Dept and has also been associated with the Forecasting Specialist Group in Saudi Arabia)

“While it is true that the rise in population leads to exploitation of natural resources, this increase can be transformed into a boon if we adopt the right attitude. It is the mind-set of the people that makes all the difference. Instead of a ‘need oriented’ usage of natural resources and its replenishment, it is the insensitive wastage of resources that is rather alarming.  For example, the rise in multiple massive real estate structures, which have very low or no occupancy, have led to a high demand for sand in construction. This in turn has led to unlawful sand mining and deforestation which has dangerous impacts on the water levels in the rivers. Deforestation has also led to climate change and increased pollution.

We have a rich asset of young minds between the age group of 25-40 years. Using this resource effectively is the key.  While urbanisation is important, it is the urban culture that one needs to be wary about.  An attitude of concern for others, the environment and the future, is what we must cultivate in young minds today. Corruption and lethargy among administrators is another evil that needs to be eliminated. If freedom and responsibility are given to the experts who are capable of handling issues like effective waste treatment plants, our country will go a long way!  So, on World Population day, instead of looking at ‘rise in population’ as an issue, it is time to join hands to work towards a better eco-friendly future!”