Confucius (551-479 BC), Plato (427-347 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) were all concerned in their own time about excessive population. Come 18th century and Thomas Malthus (1766-1832) the British Economist and Cleric gave his theory that “Population when unchecked increases in geometric ratio while subsistence on the other hand increase only in arithmetical ratio”. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Stephen Hawking (b 1942) and Bill Gates (b 1955) are the modern day luminaries who have expressed their concern on this issue. Overpopulation is a situation where the number of people exceeds the carrying capacity of a country or in a long term perspective, when a population cannot be maintained due to the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources or the degradation of the capacity of the environment to give support to the population The Pakistan population in 1947 was 34.4 million which has increased to 207.800 million according to the provisional figures of the 2017 census. The Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) which was 2.69 percent for 17 years from 1981-1998, slowed down in 17 years with a marginal 0.29 percent in 19 years to 2.40 percent in 2016 at 207.774 million. If this trend continues, my calculation on the population of Pakistan shall be anything between 359 million to 371 millionby 2050. The Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2010-11, estimated the population growth rate at 2.10 percent which has increased to 2.56 percent in the 2011-12 survey, but reduced the growth rate to 1.58 percent in the 2012-13 Economic Survey. This indicates the lack of detailed calculations of government officials estimating the national population. In Pakistan, the first serious population control plan was attempted during the Ayub Khan era of 1958-68. After Ayub’s exit, the family planning campaign was derailed. Too busy to survive and too eager to neutralise the pressure from the religious right, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did not risk undertaking a serious population control plan. Zia rolled back the family planning program and stopped all advertising related to it. Thereafter, family planning stayed on the back burner. Another attempt to contain the growth of population was made when a family planning policy was issued in 2002 during General Pervez Musharraf’s government, which set out some long-term targets, most of which could not be achieved. By the time you finish reading this — the population of Pakistan would have increased by 66 The Vision 2025, a brainchild of our venerable Professor Ahsan Iqbal – former Minister of Planning & Development now serving as Interior Minister – talks about population growth to 227 million by 2025 and stresses on the need to lower the growth rate. Neither the first point “People First” (out of 7 pillars) nor the 4 Sustainable Development Goals of the pillar i.e. Poverty, Health, Education and gender equality, include any measure to arrest the population growth rate. It further states the creation of 1.5 million per annum additional jobs just to keep the unemployment at the current rate. Firstly, over 3.5 million people are entering the job market every year; secondly, the government will create 1.5 million jobs per annum. Unemployment, lack of housing, growing, uneducated and unhealthy population and lack of economic opportunities for the masses themselves depicts the governments’ apathy and lack of seriousness in regard to the issue. It is surprising that no one had raised an objection about the 19 year gap between the census earlier. In Iran, contraception was made available for free at government clinics and the state-run television was used to broadcast information about birth control. Health workers increasingly began to educate parents on family planning to space births. The fertility rate fell from 7 births per woman in 1986 to fewer than 2 today. This clearly indicates that if a systematic and concerted effort is made to facilitate family planning, a drastic reduction in population growth is possible. United Nations Population Division through its revised projections in 2015 stated the Total Fertility Rate (birth per woman) to be 3.72 which will decline to 2.31 by 2050, well above the replacement level. It means that the population of Pakistan shall continue to rise till about 2080. A rapidly growing population creates economic and social problems such as food, housing, education, transport, power, etc. If the existing infrastructure cannot provide basic needs for the current population of around 207.8 million people, how can it provide it for 371 million people in another 35 years? With more people, you need more industries to produce more goods, more transportation to satisfy their needs, resulting in increased use of fossil fuel like coal, oil, gas, and wood which pollute the air, water and soil. Still, all is not lost. Population experts estimate that Pakistan has a “demographic window” measuring not in days or weeks, but years – 30 years till 2045 – when the population shall start aging and increasing the dependency ratio. The country therefore has to work on an emergent basis, pass the necessary reforms and institute the requisite policies to turn Pakistan’s demographic situation into an opportunity and propel the country into a new era of economic growth. This can only be done by creating more jobs in the country, and educating and training the youth for jobs in countries with negative growth rates. If this is not done, the consequences of overpopulation and managing 371 million people in another 33 years in 2050 will be horrific. The writer is a Chartered Accountant and can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, September 16th 2017.