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7 billion and growing

With four babies born each second, the world is bursting as the seams. A snapshot of the what the future holds for us if we don't slow down. Sanchita Sharma writes. 10 most populated countries| Top of the charts in 2025| Crowded House

health and fitness Updated: Oct 30, 2011 01:50 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

Tomorrow, on October 31, the world’s seventh billion human inhabitant will be born. There’s no way to know exactly when or where this will happen, but it is very likely to be in India, where 51 babies — the highest number in the world — are born every minute.

One billion people have been added to planet earth since 1999, when the world’s population touched 6 billion. Just a century ago, it was 1.6 billion, which is a little more than China’s 1.35 billion population today.

India, with its 1.46 billion people in 2025, will become the world’s most populous country, overtaking China’s 1.39 billion people, says the UNFPA State of the World’s Population 2011 report released this week. While China’s population will decline to about 1.3 billion by 2050, India’s will continue to grow to about 1.7 billion till 2060 before beginning to decline.

Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau, who first suggested the seventh billion child is very likely to born in an Uttar Pradesh village, told HT: “I based the projection on the fact that India has the most births in the world, Uttar Pradesh the most in India and Uttar Pradesh is predominately rural.”

He refused to select the place of birth.

“Selecting a town or district would be very courageous, but based on the 2011 Census, Allahabad district has the largest rural population at 4,483,188. But that’s out of a total Uttar Pradesh population of 200 million, so the probability is getting a bit weak,” he said.

Hungry heads
The seven billion figure is eye-catching, but the reality behind it is worrying. The population growth in developed nations has stagnated, while birth rates remain high in most parts of Africa, pushing up its population from the current 1 billion to 3.6 billion by 2100.

Irrespective of where the baby is born, it will add to the 9 billion people who will inhabit earth in 2050. Food production will have to increase by 70% to feed the extra 2 billion, says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, while water usage will go up by 50% between 2007 and 2025 in developing nations and 18% in developed ones.

A fallout will be the creation of mega-cities in developing countries. In 35 years, two in three people will live in overcrowded cities, where jobs will grow scarcer. Three of the world’s most crowded cities — Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata — are in India, which is home to one–third, or 410 million, of the world’s poor.

With more than 600 million people currently 24 years old or younger in India, people looking for jobs will drive village-to-city migrations. Experts, however, fear that with 66% children not completing primary school in India, many of the young will not have the skills to participate in a complex economy.

Globally, 81 million of the 620 million economically active youth between 15 and 24 years — 13% of the age group — were unemployed in 2010, reported the International Labour Organisation.

India at crossroads
With a population stabilisation policy that focuses on advocating rather than forcing a two-child norm to bring down the total fertility rate (TFR) — the total number of children a woman has in her lifetime, which should ideally be 2.1 to keep the population where it is — progress has been slow but steady in India. Currently, the country’s average TFR is 2.6, down from 3.2 in 1998.

Even though 20 states and Union Territories have achieved replacement TFRs of 2.1, India’s two most populous states Bihar and UP continue to have TFRs of 3.9 and 3.8 respectively.

“The Centre is now sending services directly to the districts with poor health indicators. You’ll see results in the next Census,” says Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

First Published: Oct 29, 2011 23:35 IST