Overpopulation Problems

An increase in population at the rate of 600% in the last 2 centuries has led to gross overpopulation, and the problems attributed to it range from scarcity of living space to disruption in the ecological balance of the planet...
In demography, the term overpopulation refers to a condition wherein the total population of a particular region far exceeds the carrying capacity of the region. Although the term by and large refers to the ratio between population and the available area, the ratio between the population and available resources cannot be ignored.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates, the world population reached 7 billion on 31st October, 2011. (The United States Census Bureau though, estimates that we reached this population milestone in March 2012.) As of 10th July, 2012, the world population stands at an estimated 7,025,262,342 people. Two things we need to worry about here, are:
  • First, the rate at which the population is growing; the data compiled by the United Nations shows that the world population grew by 30 percent between 1990 and 2010.
  • Second, the distribution of population; with China and India making up approximately 47 percent of the total world population as of today.
Overpopulation is one of the major problems the planet is facing today, and it directly or indirectly fuels a range of other problems affecting the Earth, right from pollution to global warming. It just took us a period of 12 years, between 1999 and 2011, to go from 6 billion to 7 billion. Various estimates show that the world population would reach somewhere between 9 and 11 billion by 2050. If this happens, it would be very difficult to keep overpopulation problems at bay for a long time.

Causes of Overpopulation

Significant improvement in quality of life and basic health services has resulted in decline in death rate on one hand, and increase in the birth rate on the other. Continuous migration of people from underdeveloped areas to developed areas has triggered an unnatural growth in population in developed areas, thus, putting immense pressure on available resources. Our failure in understanding the problems caused by overpopulation in urban areas is reflected in unplanned growth of newer towns and cities. More importantly, a look at the projected population growth is even more horrendous, which in itself stresses on the fact that we are not learning from our mistakes.

Problems Caused by Overpopulation

A series of interwoven problems, all of which are basically caused due to population explosion. The worst thing about these problems is that they act as major hindrances in the process of development. Though restricted to the urban areas as of now, these problems have already begun and it will be just a matter of time before they engulf the entire planet.
Population Milestones
(United Nations Population Fund)

Scarcity of Resources
Available resources will not be sufficient to meet the demand of rising population. Only 3% of water on the planet is potable, so overpopulation problems will start with the lack of drinking water for millions of people across the globe. Land available for agricultural production is also shrinking, which means the amount of crop produced will decrease with time. If population increases and crop production decreases, a large part of population will be left to die of hunger. In fact, Thomas Malthus had predicted this problem of food shortage due to rise in population two centuries ago through his theory of population. Scarcity of resources will not just be restricted to food and water, it will also affect various other walks of life, including health services, jobs and many basic amenities.

Health Problems
The amount of waste produced by increasing population will hamper the waste management program in several countries. Untreated waste and poor hygiene will result in the spread of diseases. A large population will make the spread of contagious diseases even easier. Health resources available with us will not be sufficient enough to cater to the needs of the huge population in case of an epidemic, and the death toll will be difficult to handle. Entire planet will experience large-scale outbreaks of diseases, which will wipe out a large part of population by itself.

Environmental Issues
Increase in population will also increase the anthropogenic activities which cause global warming and related climate change. Larger the population, more will be the environmental issues that we will have to deal with like pollution and deforestation. We have proved time and again that we won't hesitate to encroach upon the natural surroundings and destroy them if we don't have a place to stay. This will result in loss of habitat for various species and cause a severe ecological imbalance on the planet. It would be foolish to expect that we will be safe from these overpopulation effects, as all lifeforms subsisting on this planet, including humans, are dependent on each other, either directly or indirectly.

All these problems would not have had affected us if we had unlimited land and resources, but that is not the case. Already limited resources are being continuously divided into smaller and smaller portions, especially the land. Perhaps we are yet to understand the hazards of overpopulation, or maybe we will continue to turn a blind eye to them until it causes some serious calamity. The need of the hour is to identify the solutions for these overpopulation issues, and to come up with some measures to curb incessant growth of population. If we don't put in efforts today, tomorrow may not even give us a chance to ponder over the situation.