We have all heard that accelerating population growth is Pakistan’s most imperative problem and every year, the statistics get more alarming. The most recent study by the United Nations (UN) predicting Pakistan’s population until 2050 is a cause of urgent concern and should be taken notice by our government.

The report, which is part of the World Population Prospects 2019 released by the UN Population Division, predicts that Pakistan’s population will increase to 403 million by 2050. According to the projections, the world’s population will overall increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7bn by 2050, and Pakistan will be among the nine countries where more than half of the projected increase will be concentrated. The report predicts that by 2050, the five most populous countries will be India, China, United States, Pakistan and Nigeria, with Pakistan and Nigeria experiencing considerable population growth.

These predictions are worrying. Even if child-bearing in high fertility countries, in which Pakistan is included at nearly the top, were to fall immediately to two births per women over a lifetime, Pakistan will still be one of the most highly populated country in the world. As the situation stands today, it seems extremely unlikely that this child-bearing rate, of two births per women, which is common in other countries, will be reached in Pakistan any time soon.

There is no valid argument against population control. As pointed out by the Supreme Court and the government in recent times, unbridled population growth is one of the most menacing factors standing in the way of development for Pakistan. Most of the crises we face today, including water shortage, inflation, gas and electricity shortage and environment pollution, can trace their origins back to uncontrolled population growth. For a country with relatively small area, Pakistan’s presence on the list of most populated countries, which include giants like India, China and the United States, should be a key concern for our government. Pakistan simply does not have the resources, particularly water, to accommodate more than 400 million people in 2050.

For a long time, population control was simply not a priority for the government and the words alone were deemed unislamic. Now, thankfully, the government has recognised it as a concern, but there is still no educated debate on the topic. The issue seems relegated to non-governmental organisations, as no government ministries or legislators have chosen to focus on it.

If the government does not want to burden our future generations with unresolvable crises, it ought to gather the courage to take a stand and issue proper policies on population control.