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On World Population Day, a look at how we became 7.7 billion people & where India stands

ThePrint takes a look at various aspects to the human civilisation’s numbers on the planet today — from carbon footprint to TFR.

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New Delhi: 7.7 billion. That’s where the human population stands today, over 3 lakh years after Homo sapiens first walked the planet.

Thirty years ago, in 1989, the United Nations declared 11 July as the World Population Day, to highlight the issues of growing population such as uneven distribution of resources and possible food and water scarcity.

While the country numbers vary from 1.42 billion in China to 1,000 in Vatican City, the human civilisation today is staring climate change in the face and questions over population are more pertinent than ever before.

How the global population grew

The global population is currently growing at a rate of around 1.07 per cent annually, and it is estimated that it will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a much slower rate owing to the increase in literacy levels and awareness.

But how did it reach 7.7 billion?

In 1961, before the developing countries set out on the path to economic development, the human population stood at 3.03 billion. With rapid industrialisation and better medical facilities, the figure rose by 150 per cent from then to the current 7.7 billion.

As seen below, China and India comprise 36.28 per cent of the world’s total population now, with India catching up with China fast.

Carbon footprint

Each new person born increases the dependency on the planet’s limited resources. However, the size of each person’s “carbon footprint” — the amount of carbon dioxide an individual releases into the environment — varies hugely from one to another, depending on region and class, among other factors. (You can check your Carbon footprint here.)

According to World Watch, an institute dedicated to the idea of a sustainable world, carbon dioxide levels today are 18 per cent higher than what they were in 1960.

The visualization below shows how the carbon footprint per capita has changed since 1960. Qatar remains the country with the worst carbon footprint in the world with 44 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita. Four more Gulf countries figure in the top 10: Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia. US sits at 10th position while India is at 132 — with a carbon footprint per capita at 1.72 metric tonnes of CO2, 10 per cent of US’s number.

Where does India stand?

With just 2 per cent of the world’s landmass, India has 16 per cent of the global population. Between the Census of 2001 and 2011, the country added 17.7 per cent more people to its population — translating to around 181 million. In terms of density, India ranks 31 among all countries.

The population distribution in India, though, is uneven, with the Gangetic plains having a higher concentration.

In terms of states, over 35 per cent of the population resides in just 3 states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.

Total Fertility Rate

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the average number of children born to women during their reproductive years. For the population to remain stable, an overall total fertility rate of 2.1 is needed, assuming no immigration or emigration occurs in a given area. Hence, a TFR of 2.1 is known as the replacement rate.

India has witnessed a steady decline in its TFR, which touched 2.3 in 2016. Among states, only Bihar and Meghalaya still have TFRs above 3 as of 2016.

However, this does not present a clear picture. India’s poorest states with the highest fertility rates are moving the fastest in reducing the figure. As reported by Livemint, Sample Registration Survey’s most recent data shows that between 2004-06 and 2014-16, the backward states were pushing forward, lowering their fertility fastest. Higher education level among women resulted in lower fertility rates. In every Indian state and at every age group, the women who were educated had the lowest fertility rates.

How India fares in comparison to China & US

Sixty years ago, the world’s women bore six children each on average. Today, that number is just below three.

India has done well in keeping its TFR in control, compared with China and the US. By 2013, India’s TFR was down to 2.3 children per woman, from 2.4 in 2012.

India did not witness any sharp decline in the fertility rate in the last six decades. Instead, it witnessed a steady decline over a long period.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Everyone uses it but I think it is incorrect to use per-capita carbon footprint to highlight responsibility of various countries for the rise in CO2 levels. That hides the impact of population growth. If you look at Indian sky, it is clear that we need to do much better but the per-capita numbers make us feel better by putting us at number 132. A better measure would be CO2 emission per square km.

    • @Sumitro Samaddar, will it not will put bigger countries like the USA and China at an advantage? As much as I have understood, you would like to divide a country’s CO2 emission by the area it has in terms of Sq Km?

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