A new United Nations report counting the world’s population at now seven billion is serious grounds for brainstorming, the organisation says. More and more cities may reach the proportions of Mong Kok, in Hong Kong, said to be the most densely populated, with some 130,000 people per square kilometre.
In 1999, according to the UN, the world’s population was six billion. The curve indicates that by the middle of this century there will be more than nine billion of us. At a rate of 80 million babies per year, by 2100 planet earth will have 10 billion humans living on it.
Already four out of every ten people are younger than age 25. That is the average age in India today, a country whose population surpasses 1.2 billion. It has no official rules on how many children anyone has — like China with its one-per-couple policy. Yet, although India and other countries are developing rapidly, the experts say there has to be more planning.
The continent of Asia represents 4.2 billion inhabitants. China is the most numerous country, with more than 1.3 billion, but projections suggest that India will overtake it just a dozen years from now.
The India representative for the UN population fund UNFPA, Frederika Meijer, said: “India needs to prepare itself for this future. Urbanisation will be on the rise, migration will be on the rise because living will be less in rural areas.”
This urban-rural distribution is one of the main challenges raised in the UN report, with the stress on overpopulation. It says mass movement to cities cries out for better planning, because people are going to try to fit into existing concentrations. That raises concerns over living area, transportation, waste management, food distribution and a thousand other points.
Wealth and poverty is another imbalance demanding attention. Rich countries’ population is on a downward slope, creating a mounting threat to their sustainability.
The fertility rate in the most developed parts of the world is, on average, less than two children per woman, while the least developed parts have a rate of more than four.
Gender imbalance is a further cause for alarm, with more boy babies carried to term than girls. The average natural ratio is around 105 to 100, but in parts of China can be as high as 130 boys per 100 girls.