Population Growth and Environmental Degradation in India

This paper basically deals with the relationship between the growing population, poverty and urbanization and the degradation of the Environment. The study reveals that the country’s population growth is imposing an increasing burden on the country’s limited and continually degrading natural resource base. The natural resources are under increasing strain, even though the majority of people survive at subsistence level. Population pressure on arable land contributes to the land degradation.

The increasing population numbers and growing affluence have already resulted in rapid growth of energy production and consumption in India. The environmental effects like ground water and surface water contamination; air pollution and global warming are of growing concern owing to increasing consumption levels. INTRODUCTION There has been a major increase in the population and a rise in economic development in the country which have resulted in degrading the environment through an uncontrolled manner of urbanization and industrialization, expansion and intensification of agriculture, and the destruction of natural habitats.

One of the major causes of environmental degradation has been due to the rapid growth of population, which is adversely affecting the natural resources since its consumption has increased. The growing population and the environmental deterioration face the challenge of sustained development without environmental damage. The existence or the absence of favorable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of economic development.

The three fundamental demographic factors of births, deaths and migration produce changes in population size; composition, distribution and these changes raise a number of important questions of cause and effect. Population Reference Bureau estimated the 6. 14 billion world’s population in mid-2001. Contribution of India alone to this population was estimated to be 1033 million. It is estimated that the country’s population will increase to 1. 26 billion by the year 2016. The projected population indicates that India ill be a first most populous country in the world and China will be second in 2050 (Population Reference Bureau, 2001). The increase of population has been tending towards an alarming situation. India is having 18 percent of the world’s population on 2. 4 percent of its land area and has a great deal of pressure on all its natural resources. Water shortages, soil exhaustion, deforestation, air and water pollution afflicts many areas. If the world population continues to multiply, the impact on environment could be devastating.

As the 21st century begins, growing number of people and rising levels of consumption per capita are depleting natural resources and degrading the environment. The poverty-environmental damage nexus in India must be seen in the context of population growth as well. The pressures on the environment intensify every day as the population grows. The rapid increase of human numbers combines with desperate poverty and rising levels of consumption are depleting natural resources on which the livelihood of present and future generations depends.

Poverty, is amongst the consequences of population growth and its life style play major role in depleting the environment either its fuel demands for cooking or for earning livelihood for their survival. The unequal distribution of resources and limited opportunities cause push and pull factor for people living below poverty line that in turn overburdened the population density in urban areas and the environment gets manipulated by manifolds, consequently, urban slums are developed in urban areas.

The growing trends of population and consequent demand for food, energy, and housing have considerably altered land-use practices and severely degraded India’s forest vis-a-vis environment also. The growing population puts immense pressure on land at the cost of forests and grazing lands because the demand for food could not increase substantially to population. Thus, horizontal extension of land has fewer scopes and relies mostly on vertical improvement that is supported by technical development in the field of agriculture i. e. HYV seeds, Fertilizers, Pesticides, Herbicides, and agricultural implements.

All these practices are causing degradation and depletion of environment with multiplying ratio. The relationship between population growth, resource depletion and environmental degradation has been a matter of debate for decades. The argument has been between those who view population numbers per se as the main culprit in increasing pressure on the environment and those who place more blame on economic development, non-sustainable agricultural and industrial practices, and excessive and wasteful consumption. In fact, both population growth and non- sustainable development are cause for concern in India.

Though the relationship is complex, population size and growth tend to expand and accelerate these human impacts on the environment. What is more concern, the number of population rise will increase to such an extent in future that it will cause overall scarcity for resources. Decades of economic expansion and population growth have degraded its land, air and water. Population growth in India India is the second most populous country in the world after China. Recently, the population of India has crossed the one billion mark. According to the Census of India 2001, the population of India on 1st March 2001 was 1027 million.

At the time of independence, the country’s population was 342 million. The number has multiplied three-fold in around five decades. The total population size of India had grown from 361 million in 1951 to around 1027 million in 2001. The population of India increased by three times during the period of 1951-2001. The rural population of India has increased around two and half times from 298. 7 million to 741. 7 million during 1951-2001, whereas the urban population has grown 4. 6 fold from 62. 4 million in 1951 to 285. 3 million in 2001. The decadal growth rates of the population are irregular, as it increased from 13. 1 percent in 1951 to 24. 8 percent in 1971. It declined to 24. 7 percent in 1981, 23. 8 percent in 1991 and 21. 35 percent in 2001. The rural decadal growth rate of population varies from 8. 79 percent in 1951 to 17. 97 percent in 2001, whereas the urban decadal growth rate of population varies from 41. 43 percent in 1951 to 31. 11 percent in 2001. There are various reasons for this variation in the trend of population growth rate in various censuses. The increase in population has been due to the improvement in health conditions and control of diseases.

The density of population has gone up from 117 in 1951 to 312 persons in 2001 and it always shows an increasing trend over the census years in persons per square kilometer. Several push and pull factors are presumed to be operative towards distress out migration from rural to urban areas. This might be due to the declining resource availability per capita and shrinking economic opportunities in rural areas, and better economic opportunities, health and educational facilities etc. in urban areas, providing opportunities for higher level of human capital development could be the underlying factors for rural out migration.

Trends in poverty and its environmental effects in India Most of India’s poor live in rural areas and are engaged in agriculture. India’s poverty reduction through the anti-poverty and employment generation programs along with overall economic growth planning efforts has helped to reduce the poverty ratio in the country. The people below poverty line declined from 55 percent in 1973 to 26% in 1999-2000. The absolute number of poor have, however, declined from 320 million in 1973-74 to 260 million in 1999-2000.

During the same period the fraction of population below poverty line dropped from 56. 4 percent to 27. 1 percent in rural areas and from 49 percent to 23. 6 percent in urban areas. Over the period 1987-88 to 1999-2000, urban and rural poverty declined but more declines have been experienced by urban areas. Poverty is said to be both cause and effect of environment degradation. Poorer people, who cannot meet their subsistence needs through purchase, are forced to use common property resources such as forests for food and fuel, pastures for fodder, and ponds and rivers for water.

It also contributes to environmental degradation through over exploitation of natural resources like land, air and water. Population pressure driven overexploitation of the surface and underground water resources by the poor has resulted into contamination and exhaustion of the water resources. Urban population is also using rivers to dispose of untreated sewage and industrial effluent. The result is that the health of those dependents on untreated water resources is increasing at risk. Moreover degraded the environment can accelerate the process of impoverishment, again because the poor depend directly on natural assets.

The poverty and rapid population growth are found to coexist and thus seems to reinforcing each other. Poverty also affects the demographic characteristics of the population and hinders the transition to slower population growth. Acceleration in poverty alleviation is imperative to break this link between poverty and the environment. The deterioration of natural resources and unsafe living conditions affects the environment and health of the poor. Environmental challenges Population growth and economic development contribute to many serious environmental problems in India.

These include pressure on land, land/soil degradation, forests, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity, changing consumption pattern, rising demand for energy, air pollution, global warming and climate change and water scarcity and water pollution. Pressure on land India faces the most acute pressure on agricultural land. Today every million hectare of land supports 7. 27 million people. Forty three percent of the land is under cultivation, one of the highest in the world. A change in land utilization pattern implies an increase or decrease in the proportion of area under different land uses at a point in two or more time periods.

Over the past fifty years, while India’s total population increased by about 3 times, the total area of land under cultivation increased by only 20. 27 percent from 118. 75 million hectares in 1951 to 142. 82 million hectares in 2001. Most of this expansion has taken place at the expense of forest and grazing land. Despite past expansion of the area under cultivation, less agricultural land is available to feed each person in India. It shows variations in land use and a narrow range of fluctuations in the proportion of net sown area to total land in the country since 1951 to 2001.

Out of total geographical area of 329 million hectares, only 306 million hectares is the reporting area (the rest being un-administered for various reasons). The land for non-agricultural uses (housing, industry and others) is increased from 9. 36 million hectares in 1951 to 22. 97 million hectares in 2001. More than 19. 4 million hectares are snow bound and remote leaving only 237 million-hectare for agriculture, forestry, pasture and other biomass production. The area under cultivation had increased by about 30 percent until 1981 and thereafter depicts marginal decline.

The net sown area increased from 119 million hectares in 1950-51 to 140 million hectares in 1970-71 mostly through reclamation of old fallow and cultivable wastelands and diversion of groves. The net area sown has increased only marginally from 140 million hectares in 1970-71 to 141 million hectares in 2000-2001, indicating that the private efforts have peaked and the intervention of the Government is required for further land reclamation. The extent of agricultural intensification and extensification is characterized by increase in cropping and irrigation intensity and higher use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

The process of agricultural extensification and intensification is leading to land degradation, overexploitation of underground water resources, increased use of chemical fertilizers leading to eutrophication and water pollution. Agricultural intensification occurs because of increase in cropping intensity, irrigation intensity and excessive use of chemical fertilizers resulting into water logging, salinization and alkalization of croplands and eutrophication of water bodies and ill health of oceans and thus reductions in biodiversity.

Land Degradation Direct impacts of agricultural development on the environment arise from farming activities, which contribute to soil erosion, land salination and loss of nutrients. The spread of green revolution has been accompanied by over exploitation of land and water resources and use of fertilizers and pesticides have increased many folds. Shifting cultivation has also been an important cause of land degradation. Leaching from extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers is an important source of contamination of water bodies.

Intensive agriculture and irrigation contribute to land degradation particularly salination, alkalization and water logging. It is evident that most of the land in the country is degrading, thus affecting the productive resource base of the economy. Out of the total geographical area of 328. 7 million hectares, 175 million hectares are considered to be land-degraded area. Water and wind erosion is the major contributor of 141. 3 million hectares to soil erosion, with other factors like water logging 8. 5 million hectares, alkali soil 3. million hectares, acid soil 4. 5 million hectares, saline soil including coastal sandy areas 5. 5 million hectares adding to the situ degradation. While soil erosion by rain and river in hill areas causes landslides and floods, deforestation, overgrazing, traditional agricultural practices, mining and incorrect siting of development projects in forest areas have resulted in opening up of these areas to heavy soil erosion. Ravines and gullies reported 4 million hectares; area subject to shifting cultivation reported 4. million hectares and riverine and torrents erosion due to floods and eutrophication due to agricultural run-off reported 2. 7 million hectares. The increasing intensification and extensification also results in salination, alkalization and water logging in irrigated areas of the country. For achieving and maintaining food security, sustainable forestry, agricultural and rural developments controlling of land/soil erosion is very much necessary. Forest resources With less than 2 percent of the world’s total forest area, the country supports 18 percent of its population.

The total area under forests was 675. 54 thousand square kilometers in 2001, which was 21 percent of the total geographical area, as against the National Forest Policy 1988 stipulation of a target of 33 percent. Even within this recorded area, only 416. 81 thousand square kilometers, or only 12. 68 percent of country’s total land area, comprises dense forest with a crown density of more than 40 percent, thus reflecting a qualitative decline of forests in the country. Overall, the total forest cover had been increased by 35. 43 thousand square kilometers (sq. m. ) from 640. 11 thousand sq. km. in 1993 to 675. 54 thousand sq. km. in 2001. In the year 2001, as compared to 1999, the total forest cover had increased by 38. 24 thousand sq. km. The states which have shown significant increase in forest covers are Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan. However, it has increased in 1999 by 3. 90 thousand sq. km. as compared to 1997. In the year 1997, as compared to 1993, the total forest cover has decreased by 6. 71 thousand sq. km.

The states, which have shown significant decline in the forest covers, were Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Whereas the states of Gujrat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal have shown an increase in forest cover. To regulate unabated diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was enacted. It has resulted in reduction of diversion of forest area for non-forestry purposes considerably and the present rate of diversion is 16,000 hectare annually (Economic Survey of India, 1998-99). Forests are an important natural resource of India.

They play an important role in providing raw materials to industries and generating income and employment. Forests also play an important role in enhancing the quality of environment by influencing the ecological balance and life support system (checking soil erosion, maintaining soil fertility, conserving water, regulating water cycles and floods, balancing carbon dioxide and oxygen content in atmosphere etc. ). They have moderate influence against floods and thus they protect from soil erosion. Declining per capita forest land and agricultural land

The population growth has resulted in a downward trend in per capita availability of forest and agricultural land since the 1950s. Per capita availability of forests in India is much lower than the world average. Overall, per capita availability of forestland had oscillated around 0. 113 hectare during the 1950s, and then has consistently declined. The per capita availability of forest land declined from 0. 124 hectares per capita from 1960-61 to 0. 071 hectares in 1998-99 – a level that is extremely low compared to the world standards.

The growth of population is expected to be faster than hoped for improvements in forest cover as well as quality. Over the last ten years, despite governmental initiatives of joint forest management, tree grower’s co-operative movements and other efforts tangible results are still to be observed, and forest depletion and degradation is still increasing. Similarly, the per capita availability of agricultural land in rural areas has decline consistently from 0. 638 hectare in 1950-51 to 0. 271 hectare in 1998-99 and is expected to decline further as population continues to grow.

Net availability of food grains in India The per capita net availability of food grains in India indicates that, there is an availability or shortage of food grains in the country. Increasing trends in per capita availability of food grains is largely due to cereals. Although, per capita availability of pulses seems to have gone down since 1961 but the availability of the edible oil, sugar and cotton cloth depict an increasing trend. Overall the per capita availability of food grains had gone up from 395 grams per capita per day in 1951 to 458 grams per capita per day in 1999-2000.

The per capita availability of cereals increased from 334 grams per capita per day in 1951 to 426 grams per capita per day in 1999-2000. Furthermore, per capita availability of pulses declined from 61 grams per capita per day to 32 grams per capita per day over the period. However, the per capita per day availability of pulses had gone down during the period but simultaneously the per capita per day availability of edible oil, sugar and cotton cloth has been consistently increased during the period. Of course, availability does not mean accessibility because of lack of purchasing power among poor sections of society.

However, better organizational management can assure better distribution and thus consumption when the availability is assured. Habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity Protection of earth’s biological diversity is an important goal in its own right. Biodiversity has direct consumptive value in food, agriculture, medicine, industry etc. It also has the aesthetic and recreational value. The greatest threat to biodiversity is not destruction of plants and animals per se, but rather the destruction of their habitat. India is one of the 12 mega-biodiversity countries of the world.

From about 70 percent of the total geographical area surveyed so far 46,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species representing about 7 percent of the world’s flora and 6. 5 percent of the world’s fauna have been described. Population growth leads to expanding human settlements and increasing demand for food, fuel and building materials. Modernization of agriculture also threatens potentially valuable local crops. Biodiversity the world over is in peril because the habitats are threatened due to such development programmes as creation of reservoirs, mining, forest clearing, lying of communication and transport networks etc.

It is estimated that in the worldwide perspective slightly over 1000 animal species and sub-species are threatened with the extinction rate of one per year, while 20,000 flowering plants are thought to be at risk (Compendium of Environment Statistics, 2000). Changing consumption patterns The economic and industrial development is inevitably accompanied by changing patterns of consumption. The number of registered motor vehicles in India provides one useful indicator of expanding consumption and economic growth.

The increasing vehicles in country, producing more air pollution, fuel consumption, traffic jams and demands for road construction-often at the cost of agricultural land. The total number of registered vehicles in India has increased from 3 million in 1950-51 to 55 million in 2001-2002. The number of registered two wheelers rose from just 0. 27 million in 1950-51 to more than 385 million in 2000-2001. The number of cars, jeeps and taxis also registered an increase from 1. 59 million in 1950-51 to 71 million in 2000-2001. The number of registered trucks and buses also registered an increase from 0. 2 million in 1950-51 to 2. 95 million in 2000-2001 and 0. 34 million in 1950-51 to more than 0. 63 million in 2000-2001 respectively. The major share is contributed by metropolitan cities in all registered vehicles in the country. The population of India in 2000 was just over 1 billion, and there were about 10 motor vehicles for every 1000 people, or a total of roughly 10 million motor vehicles in the country. In 2020, the population of India will be about 1. 3 billion, and there will be about 44 motor vehicles for every 1000 people, making a total of 57 million vehicles (Energy Information Administration, 2001).

An increase in vehicular pollution is associated with a number of environmental problems like air pollution and global warming. In most urban areas of India, air pollution has worsened due to traffic congestion, poor housing, poor sanitation and drainage and garbage accumulation. The environmental effects of fuels like oil and petroleum products are of growing concern owing to increasing consumption levels. Rising demand for energy The environmental effects due to increasing consumption levels of fuels like coal; lignite, oil and nuclear etc. re of growing concern to various researchers. The combustion of these fuels in industries has been a major source of pollution. Coal production through open cast mining; its supply to and consumption in power stations and industrial boilers leads to particulate and gaseous pollution, which can cause pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and respiratory diseases. Energy production and consumption has increased steadily in India since 1950 onwards. The production of coal and lignite has increased from 32. 2 million tons in 1950-51 to 313. 70 million tons in 2000-2001, an increase of 9. 4 times. The production of petroleum products registered an increase of 29 times, from 3. 3 million tons in 1950-51 to 95. 6 million tons in 2000-2001. Air pollution Indian cities are among the most polluted in the world. Air in metropolitan cities has become highly polluted and pollutant concentrations exceeds limit considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). Suspended particulate levels in Delhi are many times higher than recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The urban air pollution has grown across India in the last decade are alarming.

Some of the most important air pollutants are residual suspended particulate matter (RSPM), suspended particulate matter (SPM), nitrogen dioxides (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), lead, sulfur dioxide (SO2) etc. The main factors accounts to urban air quality deterioration are growing industrialization and increasing vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, automobile exhaust and the burning of fossil fuels kills thousands and lives many more to suffer mainly from respiratory damage, heart and lung diseases. India is one of the most degraded environment countries in the world and it is paying heavy health and economic price for it.

According to a World Bank sponsored study, estimated environmental damage in the year 1992 amounted to about US $ 10 billion or Rs. 34,000 crores, which is 4. 5 % of GDP. Urban air pollution costs India US $ 1. 3 billion a year. Water degradation leads to health costs amounting to US $ 5. 7 million every year, nearly 60 percent of the total environmental cost. Soil erosion affects 83 to 163 million hectares of land every year. Beside, land degradation leads to productivity loss equal to US $ 2. 4 billion or 4 to 6. 3 percent of the agricultural productivity every year (UNDP 1998).

Water scarcity and water pollution Water use in India has been increased over the past 50 years. Out of the total annual freshwater withdrawals, the largest share goes to agriculture – at 92 percent. Industrial use accounts for another 3 percent and domestic use 5 percent. However, not all the water abstracted is effectively used, there are sizable losses in conveyance and application of irrigated water, a large part of water used by industry and domestic purposes is returned to the streams as effluent waste; and most of the water drawn by power station is used for cooling purposes and is available for reuse.

The use of fresh water increased rapidly. The amount of water available per person has declined in recent decades – primarily because of population growth and water scarcity is projected to worsen in the future. The water pollution in India comes from three main sources: domestic sewage, industrial effluents and run off from activities such as agriculture. Major industrial sources of pollution in India include the fertilizer plants, refineries, pulp and paper mills, leather tanneries, metal plating and other chemical industries.

Levels of solid wastes increased in rivers and lakes and other water systems are also heavily polluted due to the intrusion of solid wastes. Largely because of widespread pollution, access to safe drinking water remains an urgent need as only 70. 1 percent of the households in urban areas and 18. 7 percent in rural areas received organized pipe water supply and others have to depend on surface and ground water which is untreated (Statistical Abstract of India, 1999). Most part of the applied pesticides and fertilizers, irrespective of crop, applicator or the formulation used, ultimately finds its way into the soil.

Before pesticides are completely inactivated, they may adversely affect the functioning of non-target microbes and other forms of life inhabiting the soil. They may also be taken up by the plants or get translocated in the aquatic system by leaching or run-off, thus contaminating the plankton, fish, invertebrate and other forms of life using their water. Pesticide residues in food items have been a matter of considerable concern. Even small quantities of these residues ingested daily along with food can build up high levels in the body fat.

The long term effects of these residues in the human body include carcinogenicity, reduced life span and fertility, increased cholesterol, high infant mortality and varied metabolic and genetic disorders (c. f. Compendium of Environment Statistics, 1999). The increasing river water pollution is the biggest threat to public health. The diseases commonly caused due to polluted water are cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid amoebic and bacillary, dysentery, guineaworm, whereas scabies, leprosy, trachoma and conjunctivitis are some of the diseases associated with water scarcity.

All these could be attributed to the rapidly increasing population and lack of water resources. Inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities leads to higher infant mortality and intestinal diseases. More than one million children died due to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders in 1990s. In addition, around 90 lakh cases of acute diarrhea diseases have been reported in India, Uttar Pradesh reporting the highest number of cases (Central Bureau of Health Investigation, 1996). It is estimated that 73 million workdays are lost every year due to water related diseases.

The cost of treating them and the loss in production amount to Rs. 600 crores a year (Citizen’s Report, 1982). Policy implications From the various effects of human beings on environmental degradation, discussed in this paper, it appears that if human beings want to exist on earth, there is now high time to give top priority to protect natural resources and environment. The creation of employment opportunities is essential in agricultural areas with high poverty, unemployment and landlessness. Poverty also affects the demographic characteristics of the population and hinders the transition to slower population growth.

There is a need to control poverty and population growth below replacement level in the country. Unless significant measures are taken to incorporate environmental concerns into agricultural development, urban planning, technological innovations, industrial growth, and resource management, the situation is likely to worsen in the future. There is a need control pollution of all types for a healthy living. Special efforts should be made for informing and educating the people and local leaders about the adverse effects of large population through specially designed Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities.

In order to increase green cover and to preserve the existing forests, afforestation and social forestry programs should be implemented at the local level. There is a need for preventive and curative measures to control water pollution due to chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other wastes. Wastewater treatment plants should be established in accordance with the need of time and its usage should be encouraged. The heavy penalty should be imposed on industries disposing off the wastes into the river. Moreover, the landfills are to be properly managed to prevent ground water contamination.

More emphasis should be laid on compulsory environmental education at the school level in order to make people aware of the environment protection. The environment protection should not be a responsibility of government alone but local people and leaders should be encouraged to make dedicated efforts to eradicate the environmental problems. Conclusion The outcomes of high population growth rates are increasing number of people below poverty line, an increasing population density, and pressure on natural resources.

The study reveals that the country’s population growth and poverty is imposing an increasing burden on the country’s limited and continually degrading natural resource base. The natural resources are under increasing strain, even though the majority of people survive at subsistence level. It would be increasingly difficult to satisfy the basic needs of a growing population even at present levels of consumption, and the situation will deteriorate progressively as the per capita consumption of resources increases.

Population pressure on arable land contributes to the land degradation, thus affecting the productive resource base of the economy. The increasing population numbers and growing affluence have already resulted in rapid growth of energy production and consumption in India and this trend can only be expected to accelerate in the future. The environmental effects like air pollution and global warming are of growing concern owing to increasing consumption levels. However, environmental pollution not only leads to deteriorating environmental conditions but also have adverse effects on the sustainable development and health of people.

The considerable amount of both ground water and surface water contamination due to chemical fertilizers and insecticides in the country leads to various water borne diseases. The growth of population is a fundamental factor in its relationship to natural resources, environment and Technology.

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