WORLD Population Day was observed yesterday around the globe on the theme of "World at 7 billion" as the world is set to reach this number by the end of October of this year. Bangladesh, too, observed the day, but amidst major population control concerns.
Lack of clarity seems to be a key characteristic of the population problem in the country. For one, there is no clear statistic on the population itself, with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics claiming it to be 15 crore while, according to the UN report of 2008, it is over 16 crore. Perhaps more important is the absence of a clear vision towards population control. Bangladesh was held up as a success story in terms of population in the 1980s and 1990s, but the last decade has seen a sad decline in planning, motivation and action in population control programmes. Over 10,000 posts in the Directorate General of Family planning -- close to 200 at the deputy and assistant director levels -- are vacant. This shortage of personnel has had a direct impact on service delivery, with fewer service providers being able to reach an ever-increasing population. Just over 60 percent of couples use family planning, while the government target is to increase coverage to 80 percent by 2021. Overpopulation aggravates problems of food, water and sanitation, among others, while the challenge of the spiralling growth is exacerbated by global warming which is set to claim 17 percent of our already limited land.
Whether due to complacence, lack of motivation or absence of vision, our population control policies have lost their edge over the years. Change can only be brought about through a clarity of approach delineating accurate statistics, setting realistic targets and taking prompt action to meet them. We hope that, in coming years, the observation of World Population Day will not be simply a redundant show of colourful processions but a true celebration of success in the area of population control.