Overpopulation Causes Environmental Degradation in India and Pakistan

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

The index examined data available from over 130 nations and found that 77 of them are overpopulated, including India, Pakistan and China. That means that these nations are consuming more resources than they are producing and are dependent on other countries, and the earth, to compensate for that.

"Dependency and self-sufficiency ratings are based on ratio of footprint to bio-capacity, showing the percentage of footprint not supported from bio-capacity. Sustainable population shows number that can be supported from bio-capacity at current

Concurring with the British report is another similar report prepared by the California-based Global Footprint Network (GFN) in 2008. With a per person footprint of 0.80 global hectares (0.60 for Pakistan) and per person bio-capacity deficit of 0.40 global hectares (0.3 for Pakistan), India is running an ecological deficit of 100 percent. The ecological footprint measures human demand on the biosphere in terms of the land and sea area required to provide the resources we use and to absorb the waste we generate. Bio-capacity refers to the capacity of a given biologically productive area to generate an on-going supply of renewable resources and to absorb its spill-over wastes.

Like per capita emission of green house gases, per capita ecological footprint of an average South Asian is much lower than the world average. The per person ecological footprint was 0.80 for an average Indian and 0.60 for average Pakistani in 2003 when the world average was 2.2 global hectare. At the same time, because of rising population South Asia's total national ecological footprint has doubled since 1961, contributing to the degradation of its natural capital. As a result, while South Asia's overall wealth as measured by GDP has risen for reasons of better exploitation of resources over the years, its per capita bio-capacity has shrunk reducing its per capita ecological footprint. More and more people are sharing a shrinking bio-capacity.

One of the key contributors to declining ecological capacity is the dwindling fresh water. After China and India, there are other relatively less populous countries with large water deficits — Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, and Pakistan. Four of these already import a large share of their grain. Only Pakistan remains self-sufficient. But with a population expanding by 4 million a year, it has begun to turn to the world market for grain.

As the need for development grows, the natural resources like forests come under threat, endangering the livelihood of the poor, especially the tribal poor in India, who sustain themselves on the forest resources. As most of the densely forested areas are rich in minerals, these have become conflict zones pitting Indian government and resource-hungry industries against the rising Maoist insurgency. What is more, these have become the reasons for conflicts between the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests and other ministries which relate to economic development. Though there is a huge and growing gap between India's haves and the have-nots, the catchy phrase “India now consumes two Indias”, therefore, sums up the Indian “resource overshoot”.

In addition to the dwindling natural resources, there is a serious threat posed by climate change in South Asia. At 8 feet below sea level, Pakistan's financial capital Karachi shows up on the list of world's mega-cities threatened by global warming. Other South Asian cities likely to come under rising sea water in the next 100 years include Mumbai, Kolkata and Dhaka.

However, it's not just the big cities in South Asia that will feel the brunt of the climate change. The rural folks in India are already seeing rising crop failures, increasing poverty and over 200,000 farmer suicides in the last ten years.

Here is how Ramachandra Guha talks about India's impending ecological disaster in his book "How Much Should A Person Consume?":

"Gandhi's arguments have been revived and elaborated by the present generation of Indian environmentalists. As explained in Chapter Two, India is in many ways an ecological disaster zone, marked by high rates of deforestation, species loss, land degradation, and air and water pollution. The consequences of this abuse of nature have been chiefly borne by the poor in the countryside-peasants, tribals, fisherfolk, and pastoralists who have seen their resources snatched away or depleted by powerful economic interests. For, over the last few decades, the men who rule India have attempted precisely to "make India like England and America." Without access to resources and markets enjoyed by those two nations when they began to industrialize, India has perforce had to rely on exploiting its own people and environment."

As Indians and Pakistanis aspire to higher standards of living enjoyed by the developed world, they will have to find ways to do so without destroying what sustains them. Instead of simply copying how the West industrialized in the 19th and the 20th centuries, the South Asians will have to do it in the 21st century in a sustainable manner by focusing on the development and use of renewable resources.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Environmental Degradation at Siachen

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

World's Biggest Polluters

Global Warming Impact on Pakistan

Indian Rural Poverty Worsens

Climate Change Impact on Karachi, South Asian Megacities

Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Syeda Hamida of Indian Planning Commission Says India Worse Than Pakistan and Bangladesh

Global Hunger Index Report 2009

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Food, Clothing and Shelter For All

India's Family Health Survey

Hunger and Undernutrition Blog

Pakistan's Total Sanitation Campaign

Is India a Nutritional Weakling?

Asian Gains in World's Top Universities

India's Vulnerability to Climate Change

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

What Does Democracy Deliver in Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a piece on India's energy and food crises:

The sound of trumpets–or was it sirens–was heard from Delhi this week as India’s Premier got loud about his country’s future energy needs. It’s not often we are treated to such transparency. In contrast, China tried to spin its own future call on global energy through the framework of limits this week when it declared it would hold coal consumption to 4.0-4.2 Mt (million tons) by 2015. Clearly, China’s coal consumption juggernaut wants to downplay the fact that these are coal use levels 25 percent to 30 percent higher than today.

In India, meanwhile, they are willing to put some big raw numbers on the situation:

Premier Manmohan Singh told India’s energy firms on Monday to scour the globe for fuel supplies as he warned the country’s demand for fossil fuels was set to soar 40 percent over the next decade. The country of more than 1.1 billion people already imports nearly 80 percent of its crude oil to fuel an economy that is expected to grow 8.5 percent this year and at least nine percent next year. Demand for hydrocarbons — petroleum, coal, natural gas — “over the next 10 years will increase by over 40 percent,” Singh told an energy conference in New Delhi.

Question: Is it energy that India needs? Or is it food? This is, of course, roughly the same question. As we look at the chart below, showing the decline of arable land in India from 1961 – 2007, let’s consider that India’s population rose from 444 million to 1.124 billion in the same time period.

Arable land in India has been cut in half over the past 45 years, declining from 0.35 hectares per person to the current 0.14 hectares per person. Cornucopians will protest. They’ll say global productivity of agriculture has soared over the past 50 years, and they would be correct in making such a claim. But the question is: how was that advance actually achieved?

Primarily through fossil fuels, of course. Which gets us back to Premier Singh’s clarion call. With its population having nearly tripled in 50 years, and its arable land cut in half, India is going to have to become much more productive on its remaining land. To do so, it will need to significantly increase its use of fertilizer that either comes straight from the ground, like Potash, or through manufacturing–which requires natural gas. This does not even address India’s growing water problem.

Or, that like many other Asian and Middle Eastern countries, India too has gone abroad in search of farmland. | see: FarmLandGrab.org for both a running tally and newsflow on this global mega-trend
Riaz Haq said…
The fundamental problems in South Asia are very different from problems in the West.

Solution to South Asian problems can not be found by aping the West...and original thinking is required to find such solutions.

Take individual liberties and rights for example.

The biggest beneficiaries of such rights are those few who have the power to enforce such rights for themselves through the use of the courts and the state apparatus, usually at the expense of the society at large. This situation leads to growing inequalities, and greater poverty for the majority.

Similarly, the western style capitalist economy encourages unrestrained growth in consumption...something that Asian nations with their massive populations and rapidly depleting natural resources can simply not afford.

No amount of cheap widget manufacturing, computer code writing and low-cost BPO services can solve these problems.

There is an estimate that it would take five times the resources of the planet earth for the rest the world to live as Americans do today.

What we need is to acknowledge that the developing world can not achieve the same standards of living as the OECD nations have without catastrophic destruction of the planet.

So what is the alternative? How do the Asians and the Africans achieve reasonable standards of living without destroying the planet? What political and economic system is needed to ensure equitable sharing of rapidly depleting resources of the earth?

These are the kinds of questions that need to be explored and answered by Asian intellectuals now.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Washington Post report on rising suicides in India:

NEW DELHI — Ram Babu’s last days were typical in India’s growing rash of suicides.

The poor farmer’s crop failed and he defaulted on the $6,000 loan he had taken to buy a tractor. The bank’s collectors hounded him, even hiring drummers to go round the village drawing attention to his shame.

“My father found it unbearable. He was an honorable man and he couldn’t take the humiliation. The next day he hanged himself from a tree on his farm,” his son Ram Gulam said Friday.

Babu’s suicide went unreported in local newspapers, just another statistic in a country where more than 15 people kill themselves every hour, according to a new government report.

The report released late Thursday said nearly 135,000 people killed themselves in the country of 1.2 billion last year, a 5.9 percent jump in the number of suicides over the past year.

The suicide rate increased to 11.4 per 100,000 people in 2010 from 10.9 the year before, according to the statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Financial difficulties and debts led to most of the male suicides while women were driven to take their lives because of domestic pressures, including physical and mental abuse and demands for dowry.

A 2008 World Health Organization report ranked India 41st for its suicide rate, but because of its huge population it accounted for 20 percent of global suicides.

The largest numbers of suicides were reported from the southern Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, where tens of thousands of impoverished farmers have killed themselves after suffering under insurmountable debts.

The loans — from banks and loan sharks — were often used to buy seeds and farm equipment, or to pay large dowries to get their daughters married. But a bad harvest could plunge the farmer over the edge.

Sociologists say the rapid rise in incomes in India’s booming economy has resulted in a surge in aspirations as well among the lower and middle classes, and the failure to attain material success can trigger young people to suicide.

“The support that traditionally large Indian families and village communities offered no longer exists in urban situations. Young men and women move to the cities and find they have no one to turn to for succor in times of distress,” said Abhilasha Kumari, a sociology professor in New Delhi.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/government-report-says-15-people-commit-suicide-every-hour-in-india/2011/10/28/gIQAVFGWOM_story.html
Riaz Haq said…
It is official: India has the world's most toxic air, according a news report in The Hindu:

In a study by Yale and Columbia Universities, India holds the very last rank among 132 nations in terms of air quality with regard to its effect on human health.

India scored a miniscule 3.73 out of a possible 100 points in the analysis, lagging far behind the next worst performer, Bangladesh, which scored 13.66. In fact, the entire South Asian region fares badly, with Nepal, Pakistan and China taking up the remaining spots in the bottom five of the rankings.

These rankings are part of a wider study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

In the overall rankings — which takes 22 policy indicators into account — India fared minimally better, but still stuck in the last ten ranks along with environmental laggards such as Iraq, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. At the other end of the scale, the European nations of Switzerland, Latvia and Norway captured the top slots in the index.

India's performance over the last two years was relatively good in sectors such as forests, fisheries, biodiversity and climate change. However, in the case of water — both in terms of the ecosystem effects to water resources and the human health effects of water quality — the Indian performance is very poor.

The Index report was presented at the World Economic Forum currently taking place in Davos, where it's being pitched as a means to identify the leaders and the laggards on energy and environmental challenges prior to the iconic Rio+20 summit on sustainable development to be held in Brazil this June.


http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/article2837739.ece

http://epi.yale.edu/epi2012/rankings

Popular posts from this blog

China Sees Opportunity Where Others See Risk

Economic Comparison Between Bangladesh & Pakistan

Smartphones For Digital & Financial Inclusion in Pakistan