Monday, December 26, 2005

Is India overpopulated?

Think about these.

1. Bolivia is "overpopulated" with 8 people/square kilometers and Sudan are said to be “overpopulated with 16 people/square kilometers. But Seoul with 16,391 people/ square kilometers and New York with 10,292 square kilometers are never said to be overpopulated.

2. Netherlands has more than three times the population density (395 people/square kilometers) of its former colony Indonesia. But Indonesia (126 people/square kilometers) is said to have a problem of overpopulation and not the Netherlands.

‘We are underdeveloped because of overpopulation’ is a common saying in India. I believed in the same notion but not after I met a Dutch guy who said Netherlands is more densely populated than India and it is stupid to think that growth is inhibited by population. He said poor organization and mismanagement are the main reasons for underdevelopment and not the population.

Often poverty is reasoned with overpopulation. That is not true. Poverty or starvation is caused by continuous wars, poor organization, mismanagement and incompetent and corrupt governments and not by too many people.

Today, India stands only next to China in population count with a whopping 1,087,000,000 people (roughly 1.1 billion). Yes, we are highly populated but the fact remains that we live in a large area of land. So, what counts is population density and not just the numbers. Population density is defined as number of people living in a square kilometer of land area. Just for the records here is a table comparing population densities and percentage of arable land of Korea, Japan, Netherlands and India. Except India other countries in the list are well developed and fast progressing. Israel’s case is added for the reason explained later.

(Arable land is defined as the land that can be used for growing crops)

It is clear there are some countries doing much better than India despite their high density population. They are not starving despite their low percentage in arable land (shown in the table). They are finding success by making good use of advanced technologies.

More than half of India’s land can be used for growing crops which is unmatched in the world. India is the only country having such a high percentage of arable land. Yet, we starve. Worse, we blame it on our own population and not on our incapability and incompetence.

Now let us move to the case of Israel. Israel was mostly unarable desert until desalination plants were built on the coast. People of Israel turned infertile unarable land into fertile arable land. The plants turn salt water into fresh water for farming, drinking, and washing. Israel has created her own large fresh water source. At present, they are progressing against all the odds.

(Another good example is Aran Island which is off the west coast of Ireland. The unarable land of the island was covered with a shallow layer of seaweed and sand from the ocean to make it arable. Today people grow crops there.)

This is how technology can transform a country. If India is better managed by adopting advanced technological skills, she can feed more than the present population. Large population is a valuable resource especially when many of the developed countries are fast aging today.

(Statistics: Population Resource Centre, Wikipedia and CIA World Fact Book)

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