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Essay on Overpopulation and Deforestation

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Overpopulation is a root problem of all the environmental issues. If you can control the population, you can control almost anything.

Never before has there been such a large magnitude of humans on the face of our planet. With our numbers crossing the 8 billion mark, humans have surpassed every other large animal to become the most populous mammal on earth. It is this very figure that becomes the basis of the modern world problem of overpopulation.

The United Nations defines Overpopulation as “The exceeding of certain threshold limits of population density when environmental resources fail to meet the requirements of individual organisms regarding shelter, nutrition and so forth. It gives rise to high rates of mortality and morbidity.” Thus, overpopulation is based on the problem of scarcity of natural resources and the unending human wants. It has a direct linkage to environmental issues like Global warming that pose a severe threat to humanity’s existence in the succeeding decades. While the problem of overpopulation poses a global concern, countries like India happen to be the most adversely affected by this phenomenon. Greater population is linked with greater need for essentials, higher maintenance expenditure and increased burden on social and administrative services. This leads to mismanagement and inefficiency in the utilization of natural resources, thus inducing increased carbon emissions, destruction of forest cover, loss of diverse fauna and the overall degradation of the environment.

Causes of Overpopulation

For a large portion of human history, the population grew at a slow and steady rate. This continued until the dawn of the industrial revolution combined with increased urbanization and modernization. The spike of population in India can be attributed to the following factors:

High Birth Rate and Low Death Rate: The rapid advancements in the field of medicine reduced the death rate significantly. Previously, a family would consist of anywhere between 6 to 8 children. This was owing to the fact that it was relatively unlikely for infants to reach adulthood. With the beginning of the modern era, the death rate plunged while the birth rate did not see a drop to such an extent.

Poverty and Illiteracy: Due to widespread poverty, increased fertility was also correlated to the early employment of children for the sustenance of the family. Moreover, absence of awareness about family planning and lack of essential education about contraceptives continued the trend of India’s high fertility rate.

Illegal migration: While this factor has been quite region-specific, it does attribute to high population density and consequent stress over the available natural resources.

While human beings have the potential to bring about immense change, untrained human capital and overpopulation turn these necessary assets and liabilities.

Overpopulation and the need for sustainability

India’s population explosion and the simultaneous large-scale industrialization and urbanization. After the year of the great divide (1921), India has not recorded a decline in its overall population. India happens to house 17.5% of the global population on 2.4% of its available land area. This has contributed to increasing tension on the primary sector and put immense pressure on our natural resources to meet the country’s ever-increasing demands. This is creating problems that will have seemingly long-lasting effects.

Excessive stress on land resources: India is a country that has been predominantly reliant on its agricultural sector for sources of employment. With the land remaining fixed and the population increasing speedily, the farmers focus on methods that fetch them maximum yield irrespective of its impact on the land in the long run. Heavy use of fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides have resulted in decreasing fertility, increasing alkalinity and the overall degradation of cultivable soil. Moreover, activities like overgrazing and chemical use have increased soil erosion. In many regions, the topsoil (most fertile component of the soil) has been eroded to critical levels.

Of the 328.7 million hectares of land in India, approximately 175 million hectares have been deemed as land and soil degraded. This only makes it more difficult for the poor farmers because not only are they unable to afford expensive technological inputs for improving productivity but also have to deal with the problem of unfertile soil. According to the 2011 census, 57% of the total land in India was used for cultivation. While this does point to the backwardness of the Indian economy, it also indicates an ever-increasing pressure on the land. With the efficiency being maximized through various chemical and technological means, expansion to new areas of cultivation seems to be the only alternative.

Lack of water and depleting water-table: One of the gravest issues arising from overpopulation seems to be that of water depletion and declining groundwater levels. Farmers in the states of Punjab and Haryana have continued to grow water-intensive crops like rice with increasing produce every year. These crops also provide the farmers with reasonable MSP rates and relative security. However, both Punjab and Haryana are only able to do so at the expense of their elaborate irrigation network. Essentially dry soil of these states means that the farmers have no choice but to draw enormous amounts of water from wells and tube wells massively impacting the water-table levels which otherwise took years to form.

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Moreover, an ever-increasing water has led to rapid increase in fresh water demands. Thus, various fresh-water sources like rivers, lakes and wells are exploited to a critical extent.

Loss of forest cover: 21.9% of the Indian population live below the poverty line. A significant portion of these individuals have a huge dependence on natural resources for their subsistence. Due to lack of knowledge, a large portion of the population continues to use wood and dung cakes as a source of fuel. Not only are they inefficient in terms of carbon emission but also cause large scale deforestation. As mentioned in (1.) The increasing need for food grains has also forced large scale deforestation. In 1951, the amount of land used for cultivation in India was 118.75 million hectares of land, but in 2001 that number increased to 142.82 million hectares of land. Most of the land that became available in this 50-year span was because of forests being chopped down.

Forests are an essential part of the ecosystem and play a vital role in maintaining a balance in the environment. They 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 the atmosphere.

Environmental pollution: With the growth of population, there is a greater need for manufactured products and subsequently a greater need of industries. While the development of industries is necessary for the economic well-being of the country, they are huge polluters and often disturb their surrounding ecosystem. Furthermore, India being a developing nation is highly dependent on fossil fuels (especially coal) for meeting its power and energy needs. India also contains one of the largest numbers of on road vehicles having a significant contribution to global carbon emissions. While there has been an increase in the investment of renewable energy, the transition towards an efficient and renewable-based nation is a far-fetched goal.

Points 3. and 4. bring out an interesting dichotomy of development and poverty in terms of their environmental impact. A poorer population would mean higher inefficiency which would further contribute to usage of inefficient sources of energy. This would lead to widespread pollution and deforestation.

On the flip side poverty alleviation and a transition towards a more developed society would facilitate the need for industrialization. Rampant construction of factories and their large-scale utilization would also have a hefty cost in environmental terms.

Habitat and Biodiversity loss: India is one of the 12 mega-biodiversity countries of the world. It accounts for almost 8% of all the recorded species that are present on our planet, including over 45000 species of plants and 91000 species of animals. Increasing human settlements are causing heavy loss in the habitat of a large number of animals. The destruction of entire ecosystems has put many kinds of flora and fauna on the brink of extinction. It is estimated that in the worldwide perspective slightly over 1000 animal species and subspecies 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).

Countermeasures taken by the Government

Curbing the growth of the population has been one of the primary objectives of the government. India’s fertility rate has reduced drastically from over 6 in the colonial era to 2.22 presently. This has only been achieved through the administration of soft and indirect methods to change the perception of the general public. Information has been imparted to the rural sects of the society about the advantages of family planning. Greater awareness has also been spread with regards to sex education and the use of contraceptives. One of the biggest reasons of slowing population growth rate has been a decline in poverty and a rise in literacy rates. It is completely true that “Development is the best contraceptive”.

A Transition towards Sustainable methods

It is clearly evident that the impacts of overpopulation in the long run will be disastrous economically, socially and ecologically. This makes adoption of sustainable practice essential. The population explosion in India has led to excessive stress of natural resources, forcing farmers, industrialists and politicians to use any means necessary for meeting current demands. As discussed above, such practices are degrading land, destroying forest cover, endangering species, increasing carbon emissions, deteriorating air quality and causing water scarcity. Thus, it is necessary to innovate and enhance our current practices along with the control on population. This can be achieved through the adoption various sustainable substitutes:

Farmers should be encouraged to only produce crops that are suitable to the climatic conditions and soil type of their respective areas. The government should subsidize organic fertilizers and manure instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Moreover, the rural farmers can be educated about upcoming innovation in farming like hydroponics, aquaponics and vertical farming techniques. This would help in the diversification of produce and be a vital solution to diminishing land space.

Practices like rainwater harvesting could help solve the water crisis in many parts of the country. There should also be regulated use of tube wells and wells to prevent over exploitation by farmers and the general public.

To prevent ecological imbalances, destruction of dense forests for infrastructure or power projects should be brought down to a minimum. There should be greater focus on restoring the dense forest cover in the country. Along with that, stricter regulations with regards to hunting and poaching should be put in place.

The journey to becoming a completely sustainable nation reliant on renewable energy is a tough one. However, with proper execution and planning, it is completely possible to form an India with a steady population serving.

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Essay on Overpopulation and Deforestation. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-overpopulation-and-deforestation/
“Essay on Overpopulation and Deforestation.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-overpopulation-and-deforestation/
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Essay on Overpopulation and Deforestation [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-overpopulation-and-deforestation/
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