Population and EnvironmentDraft Chapter for the ICPD Pakistan Country Report (P-16)

Population and EnvironmentDraft Chapter for the ICPD Pakistan Country Report (P-16)

Publication details

  • Wednesday | 15 Dec, 1993
  • Policy Briefs/Papers
  • 26
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The Population of Pakistan grew from 32.7 million in 1947 to an estimated 115 million in 1992. The population growth rate varied between 2.4 percent in 1950's to above 3 percent in 1970s and 80s and now being estimated around 2.9 percent for the early 1990s. This rapid growth rate made Pakistan the eighth most populous country in the world. With the addition of 3.6 million children every year, population is estimated to cross 170 million line by the turn of this century.

With falling population growth rates in a number of developing countries of Asia, Pakistan in particular is noted where no demographic transition could be witnessed. The unabated increase worries Pakistan's policy makers and programme managers and is fully reflected in all recent five year plans including the Long Term Population Welfare Plan 1993-98. All population related policies, planning and programmes consider rapid population growth as the cause of increased poverty, unattained developmental objectives, and detracting of productive investment. Furthermore, coupled with illiteracy and low female labour force participation, women in Pakistan are argued to be deprived of alternate sources of self esteem and social status except for reproducing large number of children, particularly males. Reduction in human misery and breaking the cycle of poverty and low health, family planning programmes have been perused with major emphasis on contraceptive use and introduction of small family norm. The overall perception of population growth in these contexts is that of source of all ills. The most sought political support for population programmes by donor agencies, too, gave a similar impression that focused more on its consequences for capital formation, employment generation and the consequences for capital formation, employment generation and the capacity for the government to purvey social services. In contrast, population growth, at local level is conceived more in terms of health of mother and the children while complaints about inaccessibility of basic necessities and growing pressures and strains on their survival are more prominent.

The family planning programme was organised in urban areas in early 1950s and remained predominantly urban ever since. The programme has always been supply oriented but among other reasons it could provide adequate coverage to no more than 25 percent of needy urban women and to only 5 percent of rural women. The failure of the national programme to achieve population goals lie in its chequered history of administrative controls, financial allocations and multiple approaches besides its over centralised and top-bottom bureaucratic methodology of programme execution. The vulnerability of our family planning programme depending on foreign assistance also posed serious threat to subjugate the programme in accordance with the donor's requirements. Withdrawal of foreign assistance to family planning could imply a serious jolt to programme related to integrating woman in development process, female education and health, etc. Increased availability of contraceptive methods has been achieved over the years but has maintained low accessibility to it. The variance reflects lack of innovativeness and adaptability of the programme to accommodate a variety of situations. Bali Declaration 1992 on Population and Sustainable Development seeks encouragement and wider community participation in programme planning and implementation. In this regard, examples of community oriented programmes including Orangi Pilot Project (Karachi), Idara e Kissan (Patoki), Community Based Distribution Programme (FPAP), etc. reveal tremendous potential and promise in the expansion of the programme in rural areas. The significant difference between these and official family planning programme lies in its integrated approach that considers woman as partner in development and attends to her immediate needs first. One may also argue about the quality of service that either makes or breaks new entrants to a programme. Its absence from the government based service outlets has been recognised as a major factor curtailing its progress. Unfortunately, slow accomplishment in achieving higher contraceptive use rate to lower fertility levels may be treated as a blow to the advocates of population control who had dehumanised the whole family building process into target demographic rates. The isolation of family planning from family well being issues especially those of women to raise overall quality of life are pointed out in all forums to be taken seriously in programme formulation and implementation.