World Population Awareness

Population Dynamics of Asia

September 26, 2013

Islamabad Survey Finds Low Reproductive Rights Awareness Among Adolescents

September 8, 2013, Express Tribune (Pakistan)   By: Sehrish Wasif

According to the Express Tribune, a survey conducted in eight districts of the Islamabad Capital Territory by Hayat Life Line, found that, out of 5,670 adolescent respondents, only 23.4% of girls and 27.1% of boys understood their sexual and reproductive health rights. Results varied by district. Only 42% could identify some forms of gender-based violence in society. Of those, 73% identified forced marriages as the most common form. 42% could identify physical changes related to puberty, but only 8% could identify emotional changes linked with puberty.

The author attributes this knowledge gap to parents not knowing or not discussing sexual rights information with their children. The report recommended parent counseling combined with gender separated peer programs in the schools, and additional support from the media. The objective is to raise awareness concerning the emotional aspects of puberty, the legal rights of adolescents, the social protections available to them, complications and other consequences of pregnancy during adolescence, and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The report also called for advocating that government policy include the addition of a culturally sensitive sexual and reproductive health and rights components in the school and college curricula, complete with teacher training, as needed. doclink

Why Has the Demographic Transition Stalled in Sub-Saharan Africa?

August 07, 2013, NewSecurityBeat   By: Elizabeth Leahy Madsen

The stalling fertility transitions across much of sub-Saharan Africa have motivated resulted in upward revisions in projections of Africa's population, directly affecting the resources that will be required to improve economic well-being, human capital, and social resilience among a young rapidly growing population.

Southern African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland) had an estimated total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.6 children per woman in 2005-2010, about half the level of Eastern, Western, and Central Africa, excepting Rwanda, with a 25% fertility decline 2005-2010.

What are the differences between countries that are recording steady fertility declines from those where fertility has been stagnant or even rising?

The "demographic transition" is a long process, during which populations move from high fertility and high mortality rates; to a period of low mortality rates and high fertility; and then to both low fertility and low mortality rates, which creates the temporary economic opportunity for a "demographic dividend." Some countries have completed this transition very quickly while others have stalled.

Of the 22 countries included in the analysis, 10 recorded an annual fertility decline of at least 0.05 child per woman between the two most recent surveys and are considered to comprise the group in transition. The remaining 12 countries are experiencing a fertility stall; half of them actually recorded a small increase.

In 18 of the 22 countries over 90% of those surveyed had knowledge of modern contraception, but in Niger and Nigeria, it was only two-thirds, and in Chad, only 49%. Chad also has one of the lowest rates of modern contraceptive use in the world, at less than 2%.

In the stalling countries women in the middle of their reproductive years (ages 30 to 34) had their first child about six months earlier, at age 19.5, compared to age 20 among the transition countries. Modern contraceptive use among married women is much lower among the stalling countries, with a median of 11%, compared to 28% among the transition countries.

Ideal family size is higher among the countries with fertility stalls, at an average of 6.0 children per woman, compared to 4.6 in the transition countries. In Chad and Niger, two of the stalling countries, married women report an ideal family size of nine children. Among the transition countries, ideal family sizes range from 3.6 children in Rwanda to 5.5 in Senegal.

In Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, actual TFR is at least one child per woman below the mean ideal number of children, which would indicate that the desire to use family planning to limit childbearing is probably weak, although there may be interest in birth spacing. Of all of the stalling countries, only in Zambia are women having at least one child more, on average, than their ideal family size; this is the case in three of the transition countries, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and suggests likely demand for contraception in those places.

Reasons for non-use of contraception are:

* A woman believes that she cannot or will not get pregnant

* She, her partner, or religious beliefs oppose family planning

* She does not know a method or how to obtain one

* She lacks physical or financial access to obtain a method

* She has health concerns about contraception or its side effects

In the stalling countries, the percentage of women who say they are not using family planning because they want more children is about twice as high as in transition countries (22 to 12%). Of the women who do not cite this reason, about 25% are not using contraception because they believe they do not need to. Another 20% of women in all countries cite opposition; in Nigeria and Senegal, it is the main reason provided by 40% of non-users.

Health-related reasons are offered by an average of 27% of women in transition countries, tied with fertility-related issues as the most common reason for non-use. In stalled countries, only 16% cite health reasons for not using contraception.

Another factor is the quality of national family planning programs in terms of funding, human resources, logistics, and political commitment. Demographers have found that increases in women's education and improvements in infant and child mortality contribute to faster fertility declines. This highlights the contributions of multi-sectoral social development policies to demographic change. Education affects fertility through contraceptive use and age at marriage, and mortality decline precedes fertility decline in the demographic transition.

Knowing the reasons that women do not use contraception indicates an opportunity for governments and their partners to provide better information and education to potential users of family planning, to ensure that the quality of health services provided is high, and to improve the overall policy environment for health and for family planning in particular.

Fertility is unlikely to decline dramatically while desired family size remains high. Not only are demographic transitions within Africa not following the mold of other regions, they are not following one another. doclink

Education: Northeast India's Shifting Climate Means More Girls Drop Out of School

July 23, 2013, ClimateWire (subscription)

Droughts and floods resulting from climate change are pushing families away from their farming in the northeastern India state of Assam. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land were destroyed.

Families have had to seek temporary jobs which pay less, and girls are needed to help out at home and have to leave school.

"In several areas in the state, the income of families who are solely dependent on agriculture for their livelihood has declined several-fold; as with climate change there has been a change in the rainfall pattern and also there has been a decrease in the average rainfall," said Sabita Devi, co-convener and senior researcher of the Assam-based Centre for Environment, Social and Policy Research, which found that women and girls are the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. doclink

Egypt's Perilous Drift

June 15, 2013, New York Times

People are mad at bakers in Cairo because they makes only so many subsidized pita loaves and sell the rest of their government-subsidized flour on the black market to private bakers who charge five times the official price.

Egypt is running out of hard currency and can't buy enough gasoline and diesel for power stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations, electricity cuts are common, and sewers are backing up. To make things worse, climate, water, food and population pressures are now interweaving with the political and economic ones in ways that would challenge even the best of leaders, and Egypt today has far from the best. In the last month, Cairo has seen temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees above the daily average high.

With Ethiopia's construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa, the water supply to Egypt is likely to be reduced, and since Egypt's 85 million people get 97% of their fresh water from the Nile, this has become a huge issue, with sabre-rattling already occurring.

Among non-Islamists voted for Morsi — it was the only way he got elected — there is a widespread feeling that the Brotherhood tricked them and the poor into voting for its members and now they have failed to either fix the country or share power, but are busy trying to impose religious norms. 10 million signatures have gathered so far calling on Morsi to resign and to call new elections.

Egypt needs a revolution, but the truth is that any faction here — the youth, the army, the Muslim Brotherhood -- that thinks it can rule Egypt alone and make the others disappear is fooling itself. (Egyptians today desperately need a "peace process" -- not with Israel, but with one another.

Everyone has to take responsibility for the commons, rather than just grabbing their own. Egypt's commons — its bridges, roads, parks, coral reefs — are crumbling.

On the Red Sea overbuilding, overfishing and rising water temperatures have led to the bleaching of some of the Red Sea's spectacular coral reefs. Hotel owners, to expand their land or gain some beach, simply put landfill over the coral reefs on their shores. Marine activities were unregulated, stressing dolphins in their own resting areas, where they try to sleep safe from the sharks. Fishermen overfished — especially for sharks, which they sold for meat and for fins — and they used dynamite and mesh nets that killed the multicolored reef fish, along with the grouper they were trying to catch. As a result, the whole reef ecosystem became less resilient to global warming.

In 2012, when water temperatures in the Red Sea rose by about two degrees Celsius above their average, the coral died, especially in the most tourist-filled and fished areas. Healthy coral are critical for fish spawning.

Coral requires a healthy ecosystem, starting with the apex predator — the sharks. If too many sharks are killed, too many of the midlevel predators survive and they then eat too many of the smaller plant-eating fish that keep coral healthy by eating the algae off substrates to clear space for coral to colonize. A reef rich in herbivores will be more resilient.

But for a long time the local government and fishermen were not interested and certainly could not grasp global warming's impact on the region. So Hepca, a Red Sea conservation group, estimated that every shark in the Red Sea was worth about $150,000 a year in business from tourists (who fly in to see or swim with the sharks) and lived for 30 years, while a shark killed for meat and fins for soup brought in about $150 one time. So if everyone worked together, if the government passed new zoning laws where people could fish, and dive-tour operators respected them and Hepca was empowered to enforce the regulation with its own speedboats -- the Egyptian coast guard has no boats -- everyone would be better off. It sounds simple, but it was a revolution here.

It would be hard to bring this kind of "shared commons" thinking to the national level here, but the absence of it is what ails almost every one of these Arab Awakenings today, where one group or another thinks it can have it all and too few people are thinking about the common good and how it has the potential make them all better off. Syria is the most extreme version of this disease, but Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen are all struggling with the same issue.

However, Egypt is bursting with talented young people who understand that Egypt needs an inclusive, long-term, sustainable plan for national renewal. And what they also understand is that those who say that the Arabs have tried everything — Nasserism, socialism, Communism, Baathism, liberalism and Islamism — but that nothing has worked, are wrong. There is one ism they haven't tried: environmentalism. doclink

Karen Gaia says: if there is hope for environmentalism, there is hope for family planning. Not having so many children is another way to take care of the commons.

Motherhood in Malawi is a Battle Against Medical Odds

June 5, 2013, Irish Times

In Malawi one in 36 women will die in childbirth. As Dorothy Ngoma, head of Malawi's Safe Motherhood Initiative, puts it, "being pregnant is described as having one foot in the grave".

Ngoma set up Malawi's first health workers' union at a time when there were more Malawian nurses in the UK than in Malawi. They campaigned for higher wages, better training and safer working conditions and reversed that trend. Ngoma was joined Joyce Banda, the country's first female president, and together they set up the Safe Motherhood Initiative.

Traditionally women in Malawi give birth at home, aided by "traditional birth attendants", and often hours or even days away from a medical centre. 75% live below the poverty line, 11% are HIV-positive, and malnutrition and disease are rife. All contribute to a much greater risk of a difficult delivery.

Banda has recruited a council of chiefs -- who dictate life in remote, rural villages where 85% of the population live -- to challenge tradition.

But the government has to convince pregnant women hospitals are where they want to be. Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe used to be known as a place women came to die, a massively under-resourced central hospital to which only serious cases were referred, often too late.

There is a new labour ward, and women give birth in private rooms; but now Bwaila suffers from chronic drug and equipment shortages which have a profound effect on morale. Drugs hadn't been procured since 2009.

Because of the economic crisis Banda has had to enact harsh austerity measures, which hit wage-earners hard, causing a mass strike in the civil service.

“The biggest thing I try and teach is that what we do makes a difference and that's also the hardest thing," says MacLeod. “If a woman needs medication or blood and you don't have it, it doesn't matter how good a midwife you are. She is not going to make it."

Many of the nurses and midwives she works with are supporting their entire extended family as unemployment and culture in Malawi dictate. Often they work long hours for extra pay and suffer from exhaustion.
. . . more at Irish Times doclink

Pakistan: Population Pressures

April 1 , 2013

So many people blame Pakistan's social decay on terrorism or political crisis or economic woes, but rarely look at the deaths of mothers and children during delivery due to lack of medical facilities, malnourishment and unplanned pregnancies. While terrorist attacks have killed 40,000 in Pakistan since 2011, around 20,000 mothers die every year from complications during childbirth, according to the NGO Population Council. And our child mortality rate is the fourth largest in the world.

Pakistan, with 180 million people - 2.6% of the world's population, is the sixth most populous country in the world. Its total fertility rate (TFR) is 3 children per woman., and its economic growth rate is only 3%, compared with China's 9.2% and Bangladesh's 6.1%. Bangladesh has a TFR of 2.2. If Pakistan's TFR does not change, its population will reach nearly 380 million by 2050 and the country will face a devastating scarcity of resources, according to the UN.

The Malthusian Theory of Population is still workable to understand the relation of population growth in geometric means and food growth in arithmetic means while technology remains constant.

Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan and political parties still do not have a clear vision to address this issue, imposing birth control panic with slogans like "bachay do hi achay" (Two Children are enough), which created further fear and confusion among masses.

Little or no progress has been made in Balochistan, with a TFR of 4.1, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa - 4.3, Punjab - 3.9. Major political parties chant slogans for the empowerment of women but when it comes to women's health, they hesitate to include the population issue in their manifestos. The MQM is the only political party whose manifesto reflects the need for family welfare.

There is a great need for parliament to introduce legislation to provide an enabling environment for mothers and children to seek health care and make it incumbent upon the state to provide essential services. Investment in education and health for our women can considerably increase the economic growth of the country. Health education should be part of school curricula at the middle and higher levels. Furthermore, there is a need to incorporate lady health workers into the local government system to provide basic awareness, facilities and services to males and females at the grass-root level.

In this way we can stabilise the economic growth of our country, manage its resources, prevent our mothers and newborns from death, and have safe births to protect and secure society at large. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Note that Bangladesh's TFR is now almost replacement. When I was there in 2000, it was around 3.0. In 2003 it had not budged and I thought they were stuck on male preference. However, Bangladesh TFR in the last 10 years has declined dramatically. My observation is that girl's education has finally kicked in, with girls now graduating from high school (and not getting married so early). The government had already had introduced contraception, along with reproductive health and infant survival using the Green Umbrella campaign. Bangladesh did NOT use one-child or two-child slogans. USAID financed Bangladesh's Green Umbrella campaign. This success story would not have happened without sufficient funding.

Bangladesh: Land Scarcity and Rising Population

March 10, 2013, Financial Express Bangladesh

In Bangladesh unplanned growth of population is complicating the process of meeting the demand for food, basic health requirements and educational facilities, which, in turn, is expected to lead to unemployment and social unrest. For example, trees are being chopped down for fuel on a regular basis. Climatic disruption in recent times, followed by salinity intrusion, shrinking farmlands and crop losses, has added to the woes of the people of the country.

Bangladesh, with the world's highest density of population, is fast losing arable land due to growing industrialisation and rapid encroachment of human habitat on farming areas. 8000 hectares of farm land are being lost every year from its original 13 million hectares of cropland due to urbanisation, industrialisation, unplanned rural housing and infrastructure buildings.

Entrepreneurs are going to the remote areas of the countryside to set up factories. Agriculture accounts for only 21% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) although the sector employs around 50% cent of the nation's workforce.

At the current rate of loss of cultivable land, there will be none left in 50 years. If the trend is not reversed now, the country would permanently lose its food security, making its poor population more vulnerable to volatile international commodity prices. The government has banned the use of arable land for purposes other than agriculture. It has been suggested that the factories and educational institutions that have already been built should now go vertical. But the government does not have adequate staff to monitor such things.

The average farm size has been reduced to less than 0.6 hectares and 59% of inhabitants are landless, with nearly 80% of the ultra-poor living in rural areas.

80% of Bangladesh's total cultivated area is in rice, the staple food and a politically-sensitive product,.

No one seems to worry about farmland depletion and the call for ensuring optimum utilisation of arable land and bringing fallow land under cultivation is only rhetoric. Focus was put on rice production, while fuel, cooking oils and pulses were imported at volatile prices. Suggestions for diversifying crops have been ignored by the policymakers.

Government expenditure on agricultural research has been steadily declining in Bangladesh. Investing more on agricultural research is vital for Bangladesh since it is losing cropland quite fast.

According to experts, Bangladesh could easily utilise regions such as Barind tracts, coastal zone and Sylhet haors to grow more Rabi crops comprising pulses and oil seeds to significantly reduce imports.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) pointed out that in the world's poorest corners, including Bangladesh, land is getting divided through inheritance and farm sizes are getting smaller and smaller with the passing of every generation.

The probable loss of arable and residential lands through flooding would result in increase of internal and external environmental migration and strained relations between countries. Bangladeshis, on an average, spent 50% of their income on food.

In Bangladesh, the problem of economic development has so far been addressed mainly in isolation from the population issue. It is expected that the National Population Council will play its due role in controlling population while strict monitoring and vigilance of RAJUK and all city corporations are a must to stop unplanned development of towns and industries across the country. The nation cannot afford to lose agricultural land any further. doclink

Taking Hope and Inspiration from Amazing Women

March 07, 2013,   By: Suzanne York,

Investing in women - namely providing education, healthcare, economic opportunities, sustainable livelihoods, and empowerment -, while good for population stabilization, is something the global community should be supporting anyway for the good of society. Numbers are important, such as the 222 million women around the world that want access to voluntary family planning services but do not have it. But population numbers should not be the main topic of discussion, especially when talking about women's rights and reproductive rights.

Last year, Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani teenage advocate for girls education,was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban, bringing attention to the challenges of supporting education for girls. The Taliban fighters boarded her school bus, and severely injured her and two other students. Malala has made a spectacular recovery and last month, in her first public statement since the incident,said "I want every girl, every child, to be educated." Malala has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Should she receive it, it would help her cause immensely, and improve the plight of girls around the world.

According to the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in the region, Pakistan has the second-highest number of girls who are not enrolled in school. Its education budget is less than 2.3% of GDP.

The UN Special Envoy for Global Education (Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown) wrote that "Indeed, the new superpower that cannot be ignored is the power that girls are rightly seizing for themselves."

In India, Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad founded the GREEN Foundation that is trying to protect agricultural livelihoods, promote women's empowerment, and share best practices based on local and traditional knowledge. Nearly 80% of Indian women work in agriculture, yet less than 7% of women have land tenure. Dr. Ramprasad has worked tirelessly in the face of the green revolution and the industrial agriculture system to protect biodiversity and empower small-scale farmers. She and her foundation are promoting women's innovations, much of it based on ancestral knowledge and farmer-to-farmer exchanges, including seed banks, multi-cropping, the use of natural pesticides, water harvesting, and other natural farming practices. All this has resulted in a positive and lasting effect on women's food and economic security, and has empowered women farmers across India.

As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's keep the Dr. Ramprasads and Malala's of the world in our hearts and minds. When society empowers and values women and girls, it gives them the freedom to make positive choices for themselves and their families, which is good for the entire world. doclink

Family Planning Pilot Project in Philippines is a Success Story

March 03 , 2013   By: Bonnie Tillery

The Philippines, a country the size of Arizona, has about 1/3 the U.S. population of 313 million and is expected to double in size by 2080. To feed its people, the Philippines imports more rice than any other country on the planet and its oceans show severe signs of overfishing.

The Philippines has one of the highest birth rates in the world and the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Asian Pacific.

Two thirds of native plant and animal species are endemic to the islands and nearly half of them are threatened. Less than 10% of the islands' original vegetation remains and 70% of the 27,000 square kilometers of coral reefs are in poor condition."

Late last year Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. This means that government health centers will have to make reproductive health education, maternal health care and contraceptives available to everyone. The Catholic Church is vehemently opposed to it and has threatened excommunication for the president and any politicians who support it. One 44-year-old woman, a devout Catholic with 16 children, said, "We don't pay attention to (the Church's opposition). They are not the ones who are giving birth again and again. We are the ones who have to find a way to care for the children."

In the slums of its capital, Manila, a woman who had 22 pregnancies and has 17 surviving children, reported, "Many times, we sleep without eating." One of the reasons for enacting the reproductive health law is to help break the cycle of poverty.

Pilot studies from USAID and UNFPA have shown that integrated population, health and environment (PHE) programs have made inroads in saving the environment.

One community supported by a PATH Foundation family planning program,saw the family size go from an average of 12 children to no more than four children over the first six years of the program. The community set up a marine preserve to protect the fish and eventually boost the declining catch. One man in the community noted that if they can "control the number of children, they don't need as much fish."

Sam Eaton, maker of the film "Food for 9 Billion: Turning the Population Tide in the Philippines," notes that people empowered by their ability to control their future can make a better future for their children.

With sequestration looming in the U.S., assistance to important international programs supported by USAID and UNFPA are in jeopardy. Population Action International estimates that cuts will deny access to contraceptive services and supplies to an additional 1.68 million women and couples in developing countries overseas, and result in 1,292 more maternal deaths each year.

Here in the U.S. some of our lawmakers in the U.S. want to take us backward. Numerous suits have been filed opposing contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.

It is vital that all women, here and overseas, have the ability to decide for themselves the size of their families.

Bonnie Tillery is volunteer population issues coordinator for the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. doclink

Pakistan: Malala Yousafzai is Grateful for Her 'Second Life,' Creates Malala Fund for Girls' Education

February 4, 2013,

15 year-old Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl from Pakistan known as an impassioned advocate for education, was shot in the head by the Taliban in October because she believed girls should have the right to go to school.

She was transported to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, and has undergone several surgeries. Recently she made a video statement.

"I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone and today I can speak and I'm getting better day by day. It's just because of the prayers of people, and because of these prayers, God has given me this new life, and this is a second life. This is the new life and I want to serve the people."

Doctors expect that she will need anywhere from nine to 18 months to fully recover.

As Malala gains strength, so too does her cause. Malala's father, Ziauddin, said: "When she fell, Pakistan stood and the whole world stood and the world supported her."

In her statement released today, she announced the creation of a new charitable fund to support the cause she has championed. I want every girl, every child to be educated," she said in her video statement. "And for that reason, we have organized the Malala Fund."

Vital Voices - a global non-governmental organization advancing girls' and women's leadership through training and mentoring - established the fund on behalf of Malala and her family.

Click here'35 for information on the Malala Fund and how to donate. doclink

Karen Gaia says. Girls' education is so very important to making a better world. Girls who go to school are less likely to marry early and start their families later; having the number of children that is best for the health and well-being of the family.

Singapore Announces S$2 Billion Package to Increase Population

February 02, 2013, Bloomberg Business Week

The Singapore government is addressing falling birth rates by will increasing spending on population-growth measures by 25 percent, rolling out incentives ranging from government-paid time off for adoption and paternity leave to funding for fertility treatments.

The fertility rate was at a low of only about 1.2 per woman, but rose to between 1.28 and 1.3 in 2012.

The government feels that the low birth rate undermines Singapore's ability to sustain growth levels achieved by embracing free trade, fostering higher-value manufacturing and nurturing services industries such as gambling and health care.

State-funded childcare leave, healthcare costs and financial support for housing to married couples will be available to provide more comprehensive support for Singaporeans in getting married and starting their families.

The government will pay 75% of the cost of reproduction technology treatments for couples. Newborns will get S$3,000 to help with health-care. The government will also provide S$6,000 for the first two births and S$8,000 each for the third and fourth.

Singapore's citizen workforce will begin shrinking in 2020 while land and labor limits will "increasingly constrain" its economic growth, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: if there are land limits now, they can only get worse with a growing population.

Also, paying people to have children they would not have otherwise had is a bad idea. Such children are likely to be neglected if parents have other things on their minds.

Fertility and Economic Growth in Bangladesh

February 2013, Population Reference Bureau blog

While the average family in Bangladesh today has about four children fewer than their parents' generation, that family has about six times the purchasing power. This PRB ENGAGE Mini-Presentation examines how fertility and income have changed in Bangladesh, and highlights the role that family planning can play in helping families achieve higher levels of education and in accumulating more wealth.


Philippines Only a Signature Away From Passing Reproductive Health Bill Into Law

December 21, 2012, Mail and Guardian

The Philippines' landmark reproductive health bill has been ratified; the final version of the legislation passed by a margin of 11 votes to five, after a decade-long struggle to give Filipina women the freedom to make informed family planning choices. The new legislation now only requires the signature of President Benigno Aquino who has supported the bill.

The bill will make free contraception and family planning advice available through government health centres and reproductive health classes will be incorporated into the national education curriculum. Women who have had abortions or suffered miscarriages will receive proper medical care - a crucial breakthrough in a country where, according to the UN Population Fund, 11 women die daily as a result of complications arising from pregnancy.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said "This law will be very important in improving the lives of millions of Filipina women and mothers who are presently receiving scant reproductive healthcare services from the government," said "At the end of the day, those who opposed the bill just ran out of arguments, because you can see the stark reality in the Philippines: women need to be given a choice as to how they create and run their families."

The Roman Catholic church, which counts about 80% of the population among its followers and wields considerable political sway, has delayed its adoption for a decade.

Ramon San Pascual, former executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development never doubted this bill would be passed. "You see the need for change every day, staring you in the eyes: poor young urban girls carry their malnourished babies while the religious leaders pontificate on the evil of reproductive health education."

Aquino's election as president in 2010 was a crucial stepping stone in the process, said Conde. "It took a lot of political courage from President Aquino to go up against the church. It was fortunate that the bill was passed in the middle of Aquino's term. "If they had waited for the next president I don't think it would have happened, because the Catholic church can create a lot of political damage to candidates. And they're not going to be silent over this, they're going to fight: bring the bill to the Supreme Court, rally the faithful."

"This government is out to really destroy the traditional Filipino values of family and life," said Father Melvin Castro on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippine (CBCP) website. "This government has revealed its true face. It has never been for the welfare of the family, women and children."

The Supreme Court has the power to overturn the bill, but that outcome is seen as unlikely - not least because several of the court's judges were appointed by Aquino. Surveys conducted in the Philippines suggest the majority of the public are firmly behind the bill's adoption. doclink

Thailand: Thai Restaurant Offers Family Planning Advice with Meals

December 20 , 2012, Times of India

Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant Years ago former politician and activist Mechai Viravaidya popularised condoms, family planning and AIDS awareness in Thailand and helped establish a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms where condoms are distributed along with the bill. Eventually six such restaurants were established across the south east Asian country.

Now the idea has been brought over to the UK with the new restaurant in Bicester, Oxfordshire, leading the way with all profits from merchandise sales donated to charitable causes in Thailand.

Diners are given leaflets on protective sex at the end of the meal and even encouraged to buy condom-themed merchandise. The new restaurant even has the slogan 'and remember our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.'

The name of the eatery refers to the idea that people should buy condoms alongside everyday mundane items such as cabbages.

Diners at the new restaurant will get the chance to sample traditional Thai food 'in a cosy atmosphere.' Later they are urged to buy unusual condom-themed merchandise such as mugs, keyrings and books and even a mascot made out of the contraceptive. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I have eaten in the Bangkok Cabbages and Condoms. It is a very nice restaurant with a fun gift shop to browse.

Thailand's fertility rate is 1.58 and it's population growth rate is 0.6% and still declining.

Pakistan: Malala Effect in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25, 2012, Vietnam News Agency

November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "Ensuring women's and girls' rights, eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality lie at the heart of the international human rights system."

In October, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head and the neck by the Pakistani Taliban on her way back from school in Pakistan. The Taliban threatened to kill anyone else, including women and children, holding views they disagree with.

"Malala was targeted for her prominent role in promoting the fundamental right of education for girls and for criticizing the Taliban for actions such as destroying girls' schools and threatening to kill girls who attend them. The fact that they tried to do just that to her brought into sharp focus the extreme intolerance and physical danger facing many girls who try to exercise their basic human right to education in many other countries," Pillay said.

"The sad truth is that Malala's case is not an exceptional one and, had she been less prominent, her attempted murder might have passed more or less unnoticed."

In nearby Afghanistan since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, they have reverted to guerrilla tactics which have included - as a matter of policy -- attacks on girls and women, especially in relation to their attempts to receive education.

"In the first six months of 2012 alone, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) verified 34 attacks against schools, including cases of burnings of school buildings, targeted killings and intimidation of teachers and school officials, armed attacks against and occupation of schools, and closures of girls' schools in particular. Incredibly, there have even been at least three separate attempts this year to poison girls attending schools in Afghanistan, with over 100 girls affected on each occasion."

The long distance travelled to school was as a major factor in parents deciding not to send their daughters to school, with security concerns one of the main reasons.

Girls' education has been subjected to deliberate attacks in more than 30 countries because of religious, sectarian, political or other ideological reasons. Girls get less education because their parents fear for their safety, worry about sexual violence or simply -- because of traditional values or lack of education themselves -- value their daughters' education less than that of their sons.

"Malala's bravery in confronting such practices touched a chord internationally. The attack led to an unprecedented outpouring of popular anger and major protests in favor of girls' education in Pakistan itself and in a number of other countries in the region." Important Pakistani and international educational initiatives have been launched in her name. doclink

Philippines: Manila Hospital, No Stranger to Stork, Awaits Reproductive Health Bill's Fate

November 09, 2012, New York Times   By: FLOYD WHALEY

After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate.

President Benigno S. Aquino III says the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty.

A doctor at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital says "These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can't afford them." ,,, "We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday." The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving patients contraceptives.

"Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control," Dr. Ilem said. "It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop." doclink

The Need for Reproductive Health Education in Schools in Egypt

October 18, 2012, Population Reference Bureau blog   By: Mamdouh Wahba and Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi

In Egypt, 16 million - 20% - are between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the U.N.. By 2027, there will be 26 million more. Currently, young Egyptians receive little accurate information about sexuality and protecting their health, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Preparing them for the transition to adulthood, a time when sexuality and relationships are central, will be a challenge.

Sexuality and reproductive health (SRH) are among the most fundamental aspects of life. But sensitivities to traditional religious and family values, designed to protect young people, keep them from receiving enough attention in public policy discussions. There is the assumption that young people do not need to know about SRH issues until they are married.

Because the majority of adolescents are enrolled in school, providing SRH education in schools is cost-effective.

At the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, governments from 179 countries, including Egypt, agreed that information and services should be made available to adolescents to help them understand their sexuality and protect their health. Recently the UN Commission on Population and Development, held in April 2012, reiterated this agreement and focused on adolescents and youth. Egyptian policymakers agreed with the reservation that they would implement the recommendations within the framework of Islamic laws, a position frequently taken by governments of Muslim countries.

While the ICPD Programme of Action clearly states that individual countries have the right to design their policies and programs in ways that conform to their laws, values, and cultures, these policies and programs should uphold individual rights and respond to the complex needs of adolescents - who are in the midst of a process of physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and moral maturation.

A number of NGOs in Egypt have taken pioneering steps in developing youth SRH programs,, and there are successful programs in other Muslim countries, but Egypt has yet to institute national SRH programs. doclink

Bangladeshi Girls Call in 'Wedding Busters' to Tackle Child Marriage

October 12, 2012

In the poverty-stricken, deeply conservative northern districts of Bangladesh, children defer to elders. So when 13-year-old Rehana was faced with the consequences of early marriage - an end to school, isolation from her friends and a life of hard work at her in-laws, she knew outright rebellion was out of the question. Fortunately she knew exactly who to call: the district's "wedding busters", a movement consisting of 11 groups of around 20 youngsters, campaigning against child marriage.

Rehana's mother argued. "Who will help us find a nice boy when she gets older?" ... "And who will protect Rehana on her way to school?" Antara, 16, one of the leaders of the child protection group could not argue. "All we can do is show them that child marriage is a curse."

The intervention of such groups is a key reason why all of the areas' unions or local councils have been able to declare their respective localities "child marriage-free zones" - in a country where almost one -third the children is married off by age 15.

Myrna Evora, country director of Plan Bangladesh, a children's charity that campaigns against early marriage said: "Early and forced marriage often drives girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They tend to miss out on an education, suffer from poor health and give birth to children who are also weak and malnourished."

Shamsul Haq, a local council chairman, said "You can't defeat something like this with heavy-handed law enforcement." Although Bangladesh in 1984 made it illegal for males under 21 and females under 18 to marry, enforcement remains lax.

There is widespread ignorance about the health consequences of early marriage. Child brides become part of a vicious cycle of chronic malnutrition and are at high risk of death during childbirth. Unicef's State of the World's Children 2011 report tells us that girls who become pregnant before the age of 16 are three to four times likelier to die giving birth than women in their 20s.

Dr Mahbub Hasan, a surgeon, said "Because their bodies are not fully formed, they're at risk of prolonged or obstructed labour. This threatens the lives of both mother and child. Early marriage is hampering our efforts to bring down maternal and child mortality."

In Bangladesh's entrenched and illegal dowry system - where a bride's family pays significant sums to the groom - encourages the marriage of adolescent girls, because younger brides typically require smaller dowries.

The government, with support from the World Bank, has been giving small cash transfers or stipends to encourage girls to stay in school. According to a World Bank study, the overall proportion of females who married in stipend project areas declined between 1992 and 1995, from 29% to 14% for 13 to 15-year-olds, and from 72% to 64% for 16- to 19-year-olds.

The wedding busters go from village to village, holding courtyard meetings and staging amateur plays. They can call on the aid of the local council chairperson and even the police chief. "The kids can stop 50% of child marriages by themselves. In the rest of the cases, we get involved," said Ehsan Chanu, former chairman of Mirganj local council. doclink

In a First, Pakistani Medical School Will Offer Sex-Ed

October 08 , 2012, Washington Post

While in the U.S. generations of sixth-graders learned fundamentals of sex, in Pakistan, the subject is not taught in schools due to traditional cultural values in the Islam-based education system. Young people learn about sex from whispered conversations with their schoolyard friends, or by experience. The fact that parents are loath to give them the facts about reproduction leaves great room for misinformation, unsafe practices, uncontrolled family size, and abortion as a method of birth control.

Because the Koran strictly prohibits sex outside marriage, the very topic of sex is taboo with teachers, and even family physicians shy away from broaching the subject with patients (including married ones). However last month Dow University of Health Sciences, based in Karachi, announced that it will integrate reproductive health education into its curriculum beginning next academic year so that future doctors will be prepared to treat patients for sexual and reproductive-related problems.

The Dow University sex-ed program will be taught to male and female students every semester. The group also developed a reproductive health guide for faculty and students that comports with the country's cultural values.

The program is based on building clinical skills, and removes moral or religious judgments from teaching. "Health starts with reproductive health," said Sikander Sohani of the nonprofit organization Aahung, which collaborated with Dow University on developing the curriculum. "If sex is healthy, marriage is healthy, the relationship is healthy. They will make good and safe decisions regarding health and family planning. This will improve the economic health and social status of the country." doclink

Bangladesh: Women Hurting Women

September 29, 2012, New York Times   By: Nicholas D. Kristof

It would be nice to think that women who achieve power would want to help women at the bottom. But the acts of one female leader show that women in power can be every bit as contemptible as men.

Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh driven Muhammad Yunus from his job as managing director of Grameen Bank. Yunus, is the founder of Grameen Bank and champion of the economic empowerment of women around the world. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, focused on helping women lift their families out of poverty.

Since last month, her government has tried to seize control of the bank from its 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95% of the bank. The government has also started various investigations of Yunus and his finances and taxes

We see a woman who has benefited from evolving gender norms using her government powers to destroy the life's work of a man who has done as much for the world's most vulnerable women as anybody on earth.

Bangladesh is a prime example of the returns from investing in women. It invested in girls' education, and today more than half of its high school students are female -- an astonishing achievement for an impoverished Muslim country.

The average Bangladeshi woman now has 2.2 children, down from 6 in 1980. Bringing women into the mainstream also seems to have soothed extremism, which is much less of a concern than in Pakistan (where female literacy in the tribal areas is only 3%).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented: "I highly respect Muhammad Yunus, and I highly respect the work that he has done, and I am hoping to see it continue without being in any way undermined or affected by any government action." Former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, have asked Sheikh Hasina to back off.

Sheikh Hasina has been disappointing in other ways, turning a blind eye to murders widely attributed to the security services, for example.

Despite this bad example, we need more women in leadership posts at home and around the world, from presidential palaces to corporate boards. The evidence suggests that diverse leadership leads to better decision making, and I think future generations of female leaders may be more attentive to women's issues than the first. doclink

Time to Really Complete Urbanization in China

September 19, 2012, Marketwatch   By: Caixin Online

China needs for its production capacity to be concentrated in the city to achieve economies of scale. Urbanization can also help rev up domestic demand, mop up excess production capacity and spur growth. Urbanization, along with industrialization, the IT revolution and globalization, will drive social and economic growth in the years to come.

There is a danger that China's "incomplete urbanization" will not only impede its growth, but may also become a source of social tension, leading to instability.

Much of the problems is that Chinese villagers are not treated the same as urban residents. In other words, farmers are not successfully becoming city residents.

The rate of urbanization went from 18% in 1978 to 51.3% at the end of last year, with the urban population grew from 238 million to 680 million. However, at least 250 million migrants working in cities are not entitled to the social benefits given to urban residents, and have little or no access to a secure job, welfare benefits, or education and medical benefits for their children. If this group of people were taken out of official counts, it would shave at least 10 to 12 percentage points off the urbanization rate, according to analysts.

Measures are being taken to improve social security benefits for migrant workers, improving the household registration system and giving migrant workers' children better access to education.

Too often, farmers' land is seized against their wishes. Local governments have been known to try all kinds of ways to convert farmland into development projects, illegally and violently evicting farmers from their homes, turning them into flat dwellers and unwilling urbanites. This is a major cause of the mass outrage and radical protests in recent years.

With between 500 million and 600 million villagers expected to move into cities in the next 10 to 25 years, the scale and complexity of Chinese urbanization is unprecedented. It is all the more necessary the government ensure the process is sustainable and people-centered. doclink

Karen Gaia says: giving farmland over to urbanization is likely a huge mistake.

Urban Disasters Spotlight Strain on Asian Cities

August 13, 2012, Korea Herald

Many of Asia's biggest cities are buckling under the strain of rapid economic development, extreme weather and an exodus from the countryside. Deadly floods, power blackouts and traffic gridlock are among the impacts.

Both Bangkok and Manila have been hit by devastating floods in the last year, and India suffered the world's worst-ever power blackout due to surging demand from industry, homes and offices.

Even though the growing affluence in Asia has seen millions of people escape from poverty, they face a return to third-world conditions when disaster strikes.

At the heart of the problem lies a lack of vision in a region where urban development policies reflect a mixture of "political goals and economic ambitions," said Professor Sun Sheng Han, an urban planning expert at Australia's University of Melbourne..

The Thai capital Bangkok -- built on swampland and slowly sinking -- risks being below sea level in 50 years after years of aggressive groundwater extraction to meet the growing needs of its factories and 12 million inhabitants. Still, a building boom there shows no sign of fading.

Rapid urbanization that blocked natural waterways and neglected drainage systems were major factors behind the deadly floods that battered the Philippine capital Manila recently. Squatters often build shanties on river banks, storm drains and canals, dumping garbage and impeding the flow of waterways.

India recently saw a two-day power blackout across half the country last month that left more than 600 million people without supplies as high demand overwhelmed the grid. Only 30% of India's 1.2 billion people live in cities, and it's urban population is expected to grow 60% by 2030.

With air conditioners and other appliances becoming increasingly popular with the country's burgeoning middle class, and the expected new subways and metros needed to accommodate growth, the strains on the power sector are expected to increase.

In Mumbai, India -- one of the world's most densely populated cities -- "The rush hour is the biggest issue. There are times it's so crowded, it's difficult to breathe," said Sudhir Gadgil, 62, an office assistant in Mumbai's southern business district, whose commute to work by train takes 1.5 hours.

In neighboring Bangladesh, the capital Dhaka is facing the worst transport infrastructure problems in its history with an array of ambitious rail, bus and road projects planned but most are still in the design stage.

"Dhaka already is a moribund city. It's dying fast and I see no hope how we can save it," said Shamsul Haq, the country's top transport expert and a professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

In Jakarta, experts predict the capital will reach total gridlock by 2014. doclink

Philippines Faces Contraception Vote

August 06, 2012, Wall Street Journal

There has been controversy in the Philippines as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and President Benigno Aquino III clash over a proposed reproductive-health bill designed to bring down the country's unusually high birthrate.

With a population of 104 million people and a birthrate of 25 births per 1,000 every year (compared to 13.7 per 1,000 in the U.S.) economists have suggested that the problems the Philippines has experienced in terms of poverty, pressure on natural resources and overburdened infrastructure will continue to cause hardship unless something is done. Affluent couples in the country have fewer than three children on average but the country's low-income mothers have nearly six.

The proposed bill, which is being debated in the Philippines House of Representatives, would require the government to make contraceptives available. It would also require officials to provide information on family-planning methods and provide classes on reproductive health and sexuality in schools.

With the results of a vote from the Philippines House of Representatives expected any day now the Catholic Church has been leading widespread protests, with an estimated 10,000 people protesting the bill in Manila in one day alone. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province attended the rally and was quoted as saying "Contraception is corruption", "The use of government and taxpayer money to promote contraception is tantamount to corruption." He also expressed concerns that contraception made sex "cheap without responsibility".

Despite support for the bill from the United Nations, the bill would not only have to pass the vote in the House of Representatives, it would require support from the senate, which analysts say will be difficult.

Despite these difficulties, President Aquino seems determined to reduce poverty and improve the economy, and has met with some success in this regard. The GDP grew by 6.4% in the first quarter compared with last year (the fastest increase in six quarters) and country has experienced a series of credit rating upgrades.

In spite of these economic improvements the Catholic Church maintains its opposition, with the belief that economic development does not outweigh their moral concerns. doclink

After 'I Do': Linking Marriage Ceremonies with Sexuality Education in Viet Nam

August 4, 2012, Friends of UNFPA

A model program in Viet Nam provides health education to young couples before they start families. Sexual behavior and norms are changing rapidly in the country where a third of the population is under 24. Yet one-third of young people still face barriers when trying to access reproductive health information or services they require and deserve.

The initiative has been implemented in four provinces since 2008. It's an initiative designed and implemented by the Viet Nam Family Planning Association with technical assistance from the UNFPA and financial support of the Government of Luxembourg.

The counseling aims to promote gender equality, discourage domestic violence, encourage men to take on household and child-rearing responsibilities and bolster women's status in the family and society. Many communication and awareness-raising activities have been organized, with participation from adolescents and young people, to equip them with information and knowledge related to pregnancy, family planning, reproductive health, and prevention of HIV. After the counseling, young couples receive marriage registration certificates in formal ceremonies. Couples must complete the seminars before getting their marriage certificate.

Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam said "Promoting knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, as well as conflict resolution and negotiation skills, can help young people protect themselves from non-consensual sex, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV." ... "It can also help them make responsible and informed decisions about their lives."

"With technical support from UNFPA, we are promoting healthy sexual behavior. We acknowledge young people have the right to have safe sex, so we have created an environment for them to talk about this," said Dr. Nguyen Thi Hau, Chairwoman of the Quang Ninh Family Planning Association.

Viet Nam has entered a period known as the 'demographic bonus', recording the highest proportional level of young people who are entering the workforce in Viet Nam's history. "Today, young people between 10 to 24 years represent almost a third of the total population. While this demographic window is open, Viet Nam has an opportunity to take advantage of this tremendous resource by ensuring that every young person has access to basic social services, health, education and training, so that they are well prepared to make a significant contribution to Viet Nam's continued socio-economic growth and development," said UNFPA's Mr. Campbell. doclink

Philippines: Population, Poverty, Politics and RH Bill

July 28 , 2012, Philippine Daily Inquirer

In developed and in most developing countries, even in historically Catholic countries, the population issue is no longer an issue. Due to lack of progress in policy and action, it continues to be debated heatedly in the Philippines.

The Catholic Church hierarchy has maintained its traditional stance against modern family planning (FP) methods, particularly modern contraceptives. Serious discussion has been hampered by the lack of reliable information and the proclivity of some parties in the debate to use epithets that label the bill as "proabortion," "antilife" and "immoral."

The State acknowledges the difficulties posed for development by rapid population growth, especially among the poorest Filipinos. But the Catholic hierarchy's hard-line position has immobilized the RH bill.

The overwhelming majority of Filipinos affirm the importance of helping women and couples control the size of their families and the responsibility of the government to provide budgetary support for modern FP services.

The 15-year old bill is titled "Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development" (RH bill, for short). The main thrust is "enabl(ing) couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions."

The experience in most of Asia demonstrates that population policy combined with a government-funded FP program has been a critical complement to sound economic policy and poverty reduction. The Philippines has sadly has fallen well behind its original Asian neighbors (Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia) in terms of both demographic and economic indicators.

Large family size is closely associated with poverty incidence - poor families are heavily burdened when they end up with more children than they want. Among families with one child only 2.9% are poor compared with households having nine or more children where 46.4% are destitute. Moreover, larger families make smaller investment in human capital per child—investment that is crucial to breaking the vicious chain of intergenerational poverty. Average annual spending on education per student falls from P8,212 for a one-child family to P2,474 for a family with nine or more children.

The poor prefer smaller families, except that they are unable to achieve their preference. The poorer the household, the higher the "unwanted" number of children. On the average, among the poorest 10% of women of reproductive age, 44% of pregnancies are unwanted (Family Planning Survey (FPS) 2006). Overall, 54% of all pregnancies are unintended (Guttmacher Institute and UP Population Institute.

Among the poorest families, 22% of married women of reproductive age express a desire to avoid pregnancies but are still not using any family planning method. Contraceptive use remains extremely low among poor couples because they lack information and access. Among the poorest 20% of women, over half do not use any method of family planning whatsoever. Among the poorest women who want to avoid pregnancy, at least 41% are unable to practice any method of contraception.

The maternal mortality rate (MMR), already high at 162 per 100,000 live births [Family Health Survey (FHS) 2006], has risen further to 221 (FHS 2011). Having too many and too closely spaced children raises the risk of illness and premature deaths (for mother and child alike).

Almost 25% of uneducated teenagers begin childbearing compared with only 3% of those who have attended college or higher. Since teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school, they are also less able to internalize the cost of rearing their children and more likely to shift this burden to the government.

Poor families having more children than desired are constrained to rely on public education and health services and other publicly provided goods and services. Moreover, women who have children sooner than planned are rarely in the best of health during pregnancy and are more likely to seek medical treatment.

Some groups, including the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and other "prolife" groups, vehemently oppose the RH bill because they claim that it is proabortion and is antilife. But the bill demonstrates an obvious definitional and scientific difference between contraception, which occurs before conception, and abortion, which occurs after. The bill is, in fact, unequivocally and explicitly against abortion -- thus, "abortion shall remain penalized under the Revised Penal Code and relevant jurisprudence." doclink

Fertility Rates Fall, but Global Population Explosion Goes on

July 22, 2012, Los Angeles Times

There more than 3 billion people worldwide under the age of 25. About 1.2 billion of them are adolescents just entering their reproductive years and there are political and cultural forces against contraception So even though birthrates are falling globally, the population explosion is far from over.

In many parts of the world children are married at an early age, even at 10 or 11. Often they have babies as soon as they reach adolescence. If they choose, collectively, not to bend to parental and community pressure, and have smaller families than their elders did, the world's population -- now 7 billion -- will continue to grow, but more slowly.

According to UN projections, the number will rise to 9.3 billion by 2050 -- the equivalent of adding another India and China to the world. This assumes that the worldwide average birthrate, will decline form the current 2.5 children per woman to 2.1. If birthrates fail to fall, population could reach 11 billion by midcentury - the equivalent to adding three Chinas.

Whether 9.3 billion or 11 billion, water, food and arable land will be more scarce, cities more crowded and hunger more widespread, but it will be worse with 11 billion.

Even with falling birthrates, with so many people now in their prime reproductive years -- the result of unchecked fertility in years past, coupled with reduced child mortality -- even modest rates of childbearing yield huge increases. Its what scientists call population momentum.

John Bongaarts, a demographer at Population Council in New York told the Times, "We're still adding more than 70 million people to the planet every year - which we have been doing since the 1970s."

Think of population growth as a speeding train. When the engineer applies the brakes, the train doesn't stop immediately. U.N. demographers once believed the train would stop around 2075. Now they say world population will continue growing into the next century.

By 2030, India, now with 1.2 billion people, will probably see its birthrate drop from 2.5 children to 2.1. But even then, India's population will continue to grow because of momentum, and is not expected to peak until 2060, at 1.7 billion people.

In some of the poorest parts of the world, fertility rates remain high, driven by tradition, religion, the inferior status of women and limited access to contraception. These are the same parts of the world where hunger, political instability and environmental degradation are already pervasive.

Africa is expected to double in population by the middle of this century, adding 1 billion people.

With 7 billion people in the world today, about 1 in 8 people lives in a slum and 1 billion are chronically hungry, according to FAO At least 8 million die every year of hunger-related illnesses.When the population reaches 9 billion - around 2050 - 1 in 3 will be living in a slum, assuming poverty and migration to cities continue at their current rates. And there will be at least 2 billion more mouths to feed, but no one can say where the food will come from.

David Tilman, a University of Minnesota expert on global agriculture, says crop production will have to be doubled. William G. Lesher, a former USDA chief economist, said "We're going to have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have the last 10,000," he said. "Some people say we'll just add more land or more water. But we're not going to do much of either."

Most of Earth's best farmland has already been utilized, and cities and desserts are replacing it. Soil erosion, chemical contamination and salt buildup from irrigation are despoiling prime acreage. With climate change, higher temperatures and violent weather will stunt or destroy crops. Increased flooding will imperil millions living in low-lying regions.

But instead of worrying about this, in Europe, Japan and North America, leaders are worried about having too few young people to care for aging populations and to fund benefits for the elderly. And in developing countries, leaders often consider large youthful populations a source of economic vitality and political strength. In the U.S., political battles are being fought over contraception and abortion, causing some environmental and humanitarian groups to retreat from family planning initiatives.

Nearly 20 years after 179 nations signed a pledge to provide universal access to family planning, supplies of contraceptives remain erratic in much of the developing world.

Although India's population growth has slowed among the urban middle class, birthrates remain high among the rural poor. Uttar Pradesh, a state in India 166 million people 10 years ago. Today it has 200 million and may double by 2050. If it were a country, it would be the fifth-most populous in the world. Women in the state still have 3.5 children each on average.

An extensive push is needed to make contraceptives widely available in scattered villages and rural areas, many of which lack paved roads or clinics. Government efforts have been haphazard and limited, reflecting an ambivalence about family planning. A national law restricts women under 18 from marrying, but the tradition to marry early is still going strong.

India's leaders view their country's youth bulge as a competitive advantage over China, whose workforce is older because of long-standing restrictions on family size. Hania Zlotnik, former director of the U.N. Population Division says: "But most of their growth is in the poor. Is it a good thing to have a larger number of poor people in your population?"

In Muzaffarnagar, 70 miles north of New Delhi, a clinic makes a once-a-month distribution of IUDs. Those with government cards showing they lived below the poverty line paid only $1.76. The turnout was so large that dozens of women were told to come back the next day. "Women are desperate for family planning services, to take control of their lives," said Gopi Gopalakrishnan, president of World Health Partners.

Nearly a quarter of women of childbearing age in Uttar Pradesh do not use modern contraception, even though they want to avoid pregnancy. Many women in rural areas cannot travel to health centers or afford contraceptives.

In neighboring Bihar, India's poorest state, when a tent clinic was set up to surgically sterilize 200 women, 2000 showed up. "When it became clear we couldn't register them all, they broke all of the furniture and chased the doctors away," Gopalakrishnan said. "These were all women. Muslim women -- with a desperate need."

Advances in agriculture, followed by the Industrial Revolution, pushed humanity to the 1-billion mark around 1810. From there, the numbers began a steep ascent.

With improved sanitation, more reliable food supplies, vaccines and other medical advances, the population doubled to 2 billion by 1930 and doubled again by 1974.

It took only 12 years to go from 6 to 7 billion. [and 12 years to go from 5 billion to 6 billion].

Thomas Robert Malthus who predicted famine and disease in 1798 did not foresee that mass migration to the New World would relieve population pressures. Paul Ehrlich, who predicted the same in 1968, didn't anticipate the success of the Green Revolution -- modern, intensive farming methods that boosted crop yields.

Still, Ehrlich's warnings inspired development of the the pill and other modern contraceptives, which cut birthrates in industrialized countries. A robust campaign by environmental groups, the World Bank and a succession of U.S. presidential administrations brought family planning to the developing world.

However activists of the antiabortion movement sought to halt U.S. aid to family planning programs abroad, pointing to abuses such as forced abortions and sterilizations in India and China. Lobbyist Steven W. Mosher helped persuade the administration of President George W. Bush to withhold $34 million to $40 million a year over seven years from the U.N. Population Fund, the largest international donor to family planning programs.

Mosher considers many forms of contraception "chemical abortion" because they prevent embryos from implanting in the womb.

The Rockefeller Foundation, sharply cut back funding for international family planning, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started up funding. With erratic funding and unpredictable political crosscurrents, it is difficult for governments and advocates in developing countries to maintain, let alone expand, access to contraception.

U.S. funding for family planning overseas has been flat in inflation-adjusted terms for two decades.

Although use of contraceptives worldwide has climbed steadily in the last 40 years, led by the industrialized West and China, it remains extraordinarily low in the least developed parts of Africa and South Asia.

In Nigeria only about 8% of reproductive-age women who are married or in relationships use contraception, compared with 72% in the US. Nigeria may surpass the U.S. as the third-most- populous country by 2050.

Kenya's family planning program was once held up as a model on the continent. In the late 1970s, the government joined with international donors in a high-profile effort that reduced the birthrate from more than eight per woman to fewer than five by the late 1990s.

Then Kenya was shaken by political turbulence, and a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress slashed family planning budgets. Supplies of contraceptives were interrupted across the East African nation and the decline in the birthrate stalled. The projection for Kenyans population in 2050 has been bumped up from 44 million to nearly a 100 million.

Even though there may be opposition from husbands, in-laws or traditional leaders, women will take contraception on the sly. One woman in Kenya wanted to stop at two children and her husband wanted more. So every three months, she sneaks away to visit a clinic and receive an injection of the hormonal contraceptive Depo-Provera. "With Depo," she said, "no one sees it. And I'm free."

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, director of the U.N. Population Fund, said women used to come to him on the sly for contraceptives when he was practicing medicine in Lagos, Nigeria, begging him to keep it private. "Most had several children," he said. "These are intelligent women who want to give their children a fighting chance for a better life." doclink

Family's 20 Kids Highlight Pakistan's Population Explosion

July 06, 2012,

In Pakistan it is not uncommon for a man to have more than one wife and as many as 20 children, even though 70% of the country is largely illiterate and resides in rural areas lacking the most basic services, says the UN and even though 60% of Pakistanis living on just $2 per day, says the World Bank.

Akbar Laghari of Pakistan's Department of Population Welfare says large families are fueling a population explosion that is fast becoming the country's most dangerous crisis, having grown from around 33 million in 1947 to more than 180 million people in 2012, making it the sixth most populous country in the world.

Only 20% of Pakistani women use modern birth control and the UN estimates the country will become the world's third most populous country after China and India by 2050.

"I consider the population problem the biggest problem of this country," Laghari said. "The future is bleak because of this." He said the government has not done enough to offer effective family planning services and teach people about birth control. The government is not giving it top priority because of the political upheavals in the country and frequent changes in government.

With widespread poverty, an energy crisis, woeful public services, and a bloody, resource-draining insurgency, Pakistan can ill afford to see this rapid growth continue, Laghari warned.

Zeba Sathar, Pakistan country director for the Population Council, a non-profit organization that specializes in public health research in developing countries says many people are unable to make informed decisions because support services such as family planning are lacking. "The poor end up with many children because they don't have access to right kind of information." she said.

"We're doing a lot of research where women say 'we didn't want that many children,' or they wanted to have them later but they just didn't find the services. ... The philosophy is we're not into controlling the number of children. If you can bring up a healthy family with 20 children, kudos to you. It's a question of running out of resources. It's when the 15th one suffers."

In the case of the family with 20 children, the family can only afford to send four of their offspring to school, the rest have to work to support the family.

While Pakistan is a deeply conservative country where many view birth control as un-Islamic and some say "The process of reproduction will go on until God stops it. Why should a Muslim worry about the increase in population when God has taken responsibility for everyone's care?" - and women are deprived of the right to make important decisions such as whether to have a child - one the other hand, other Muslim countries with similar problems to Pakistan, including Bangladesh and Iran, have introduced measures to curb their growing populations. Those countries started with the political will to do something and spent a lot of time and resources on family planning efforts.

According to WHO Government field workers and satellite clinics were the two crucial elements in the campaign in Bangladesh - which saw its population grow from 75 million when it gained independence in 1971, to more than 142 million currently. There Family Welfare Assistants provide door-to-door visits giving millions of couples family planning support and sexual health education. doclink

Karen Gaia says: There is hope in that birth spacing is often allowed. Apparently the Prophet himself did not want his wife to get pregnant when she was on a long journey.

Yemen's Problems Are Too Many People for Too Little Water

May 29, 2012, Population Matters

Simon Ross, Population Matters' chief executive, says "Yemen's people will only have a secure future when population and resources are brought into balance. It is clear that Yemeni women would like to have fewer children and it is the responsibility of the international community to provide the education and family planning services to enable them to do that."

One third of Yemeni children is malnourished, says the UN 10 million Yemenis - 44% of the population - are undernourished, with 5 million requiring emergency aid. The surge in food and fuel prices, and political instability and conflict are the cause.

Yemen is one of the world's most water-stressed countries, with renewable water resources being only 10% of the international threshold for water stress. Groundwater reserves are being rapidly depleted and its oil reserves are small and near exhaustion. Yemen was ranked 154th In the 2011 Human Development Index of well-being.

Yemen women have about 5 children each, on average. The population was four million in 1950, is now at 26 million, and is expected to reach 100 million by 2100, even if the birth rate gradually declines to two children per woman by then. This is due partly to increasing life expectancy over time and partly to the current age profile, with almost half of the current population under the age of 16.

Only one in four Yemeni women uses any form of contraception and only one in five uses a modern method of contraception. Almost four in ten Yemeni women would like to delay or avoid another pregnancy but do not use modern contraception. doclink

Pollutants Mucking with Food Production

May 24, 2012, Discovery News

Black carbon and tropospheric ozone, both of which derive from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, are the most likely primary drivers of the tropical expansion observed in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the main culprit is depletion of stratospheric ozone.)

A map of the expanded tropics can be seen by clicking on the headline.

When the tropics widen, mid-latitude storms shift toward the poles, and southern portions of the U.S. and Asia could become drier, which could in turn disrupt regional agriculture, warns climatologist Robert J. Allen of the University of California, Riverside.

Direct observations have shown that the tropics widened by 0.7 degrees latitude per decade between 1979 and 2009, and previous climate simulations revealed that heating of the atmosphere at mid-latitudes is to blame. Allen and his colleagues discovered that simulations that ignored black carbon and tropospheric ozone underestimated the observed tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere by about a third.

The results imply that these two pollutants are responsible for about 70% of the recent tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere.

Black carbon and tropospheric ozone both absorb solar radiation and both persist in the atmosphere only one or two weeks, so they cause the greatest atmospheric heat gain near their sources, which in the Northern Hemisphere tend to be the heavily populated low- to mid-latitudes.

"Greenhouse gases do contribute to the tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere," Allen said. "But our work shows that black carbon and tropospheric ozone are the main drivers here. We need to implement more stringent policies to curtail their emissions, which would not only help mitigate global warming and improve human health, but could also lessen the regional impacts of changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation."

~ ~ ~

Note: From Wikipedia: In Climatology, black carbon or BC is a climate forcing agent formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. The term black carbon is also used in soil sciences and geology, referring either to deposited atmospheric BC or to directly incorporated BC from vegetation fires. Especially for the tropics, BC in soils significantly contributes to fertility as it is able to absorb important plant nutrients.

Up to 30 % of the total carbon stored in soils is contributed by black carbon. Especially for tropical soils BC serves as a reservoir for nutrients. Experiments showed that soils without high amounts of black carbon are significantly less fertile than soils that contain black carbon. In this context, the slash and burn agricultural practice used in tropical regions does not only enhance productivity by releasing nutrients from the burned vegetation but also by adding black carbon to the soil. Nonetheless, for a sustainable management, a slash-and-char practice would be better in order to prevent high emissions of CO2 and volatile black carbon. Furthermore, the positive effects of this type of agriculture are counteracted if used for large patches so that soil erosion is not anymore prevented by the vegetation. doclink

Lack of Babies Could Mean the Extinction of the Japanese People

May 11, 2012, Fox News

Japanese researchers have now warned of a doomsday scenario if it birth rate decline continues - with the last child to be born there in 3011 and the Japanese people potentially disappearing a few generations later. Another study recently showed Japan's population is expected to fall a third from its current 127.7 million over the next century.

If the birth rate continues to drop at the current rate, it will reach 1.35 children per woman in 50 years.

Why is there a lack of children? It could be that Japan is an extremely expensive country and getting a child through college can wipe out a family's finances. However the Japanese state does throw a lot of money at people with children.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research study showed 25% of unmarried men and women in their 30s had never had sex, and most young women preferred being single. Also 60% of unmarried young men didn't have a girlfriend, and nearly 50% of women of the same age weren't dating.

Japan's population isn't falling faster because people there are living longer. Japan has a life expectancy of about 86 years for women and 79 for men at present, and the ages are expected to rise in the coming decades. Over 20% of Japan's people are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions of elderly in the world.

Japan's graying population is a real problem for the country's leaders as they need to ensure the dwindling numbers of workers can pay for all the care needed for the growing army of pensioners.

The diaper manufacturer Unicharm recently announced that sales of its adult diapers were now larger than those for babies.

"The universal longevity society is what we humans have longed for and what countries across the globe have been aiming for. Yet, in order for Japan, which is in the process of becoming one, to be truly considered as a model of universal longevity society, the country needs to recover the birth rate," Japan's Council of Aging warned in a letter to the prime minister.

The easy answer would be large-scale immigration from other Asian countries, but the Japanese public has historically opposed such a measure.

Despite concerns about the lack of babies, the country is still packed into the coastal belts because the rest of the country is mostly mountains.

One Japanese person told the author that if there are far fewer people there in the future it will be a much better place to live. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Japan's birth rate is likely to fall until the population becomes sustainable. Currently Japan imports much of its grain. World grain prices are going up because, worldwide, more grain was consumed than produced in the last 8 out of 12 years.

Having more babies or bringing in immigrants will only exacerbate the problem.

Rewarding people for having children they wouldn't have had otherwise often produces unloved, poorly raised children.

Food for 9 Billion: Turning the Population Tide in the Philippines

January 23, 2012, Center for Investigative Reporting

This story also appeared on PBS NEWSHOUR. A related story can be found on American Public Media's Marketplace.

Fishing villages near the Danajon Double Barrier Reef off of Bohol Island in the southern Philippines are embracing birth control for the first time, not just as a means to plan their families but as a path to long-term food security, ensuring that future generations enjoy the same abundance of fish. The area is one of the richest marine biodiversity hot spots in the world. More than a million people depend on these fishing grounds for their main source of protein and livelihoods. As the population of this area has nearly tripled in the last three decades, the effect on the reef has been devastating.

Illegal fishing has become rampant. Many use dynamite or cyanide, indiscriminately killing everything within their reach.

The shift to smaller families in the rural fishing village Humayhumay is already paying dividends. Fishermen have created a marine preserve to help revive fish stocks. With smaller families, thinking about future generations is a luxury fishermen can afford.

Every year the Philippines, now with 100 million people, adds about 2 million more mouths to feed and isn't expected to stabilize its population until 2080, at 200 million. The country is already beyond its carrying capacity.

Jason Bostero: Family planning is helpful because if you control the number of your children, you don't need as many fish to support your family. If you have many children, it's difficult to support them." .. "My income is just right to feed us three times a day. It's really, really different when you have a small family."

Crisna Bostero: "In my case, we were really hard up before. Sometimes, we would only eat once a day because we were so poor. We couldn't go to school. I did not finish my school because there were just so many of us."

A community-based family planning programs has made birth control options like the pill accessible and affordable - at about 70 cents a month. Distributors are able to sell pills and condoms anytime. They are as easy as buying soft drinks or matches.

PATH Foundation Philippines, a group funded mostly through USAID, has made this possible, placing its emphasis on local partners and bringing access to the people. In just six years since the program was first established here, family sizes have dropped from as many as 12 children to a maximum of about four today.

The program shows how closely tied family planning is with environmental conservation and putting food on the table.

Jason and Crisna Bostero, both practicing Catholics, don't see a conflict between their religious beliefs and family planning. For them, it's about something much more immediate, like what kind of future they're going to pass on to their two children. " I don't want them to be like us, just to fish the sea, just to farm the land. This is not an easy way to earn a living."

Outside of Humayhumay, where birth control remains largely out of reach, the struggle to put food on the table from one day to the next dominates life. People have to collect government assistance checks for food.

Countries like Thailand and Indonesia have largely avoided this scene, thanks to state-sponsored family planning programs. But Congressman Walden Bello says in the Philippines, any efforts to do the same have faced stiff resistance.

The country is 80% Catholic and the Catholic church leadership opposes any form of artificial contraception and has rallied for a decade against a reproductive health bill in Congress that would guarantee universal access to birth control. Recently, it even threatened the president with excommunication for supporting the bill.

Filipino Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz says "if you have more mouths to feed, then produce more food to eat! Not the other way around."

But trying to produce more food tests the limits of ecosystems, both on land and sea. Today, the Philippines imports more rice than any other nation on the planet. And according to the World Bank, every major species of fish here shows signs of severe overfishing.

Technological advances to boost the food supply have not kept pace with the Philippine's surging population growth.

More than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Instititute.

The future of the people in the Philippines could easily be overwhelmed by outside forces, in a world that's projected to have 9 billion mouths to feed by the middle of the century. doclink

Pakistan Senate Unanimously Passed the Bill of Women Rights

January 19, 2012

President Asif Ali Zardari, on the International Day for Women, signed the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) Bill 2012 into law. The NCSW Bill was unanimously approved by the National Assembly and Senate earlier this year.

Zardari said that the National Commission on the Status of Women has been made independent and autonomous. It has been empowered to protect the social, economic, political and legal rights of women, he said.

Protecting women from harassment at workplace, preventing acid attacks, discouraging anti women practices, creation of a Fund for women in distress and detention and legislation to punish several offenses against women including depriving them from inheritance and forced marriage were among the prominent measures taken by the Government, the President said. doclink

China's Urban Population Exceeds Countryside for First Time

January 17, 2012, Business Week

Today in China, 690.79 million people live in urban areas, compared with 656.56 million in the countryside, the 2011 report of China's National Bureau of Statistics said. Three decades of economic development has encouraged farmers to seek better living standards in towns and cities. The number of people in China's urban areas is twice the the total U.S. population.

Capitalist reforms in the late 1970s have taken more than 200 million people out of poverty, fueled a more than 90-fold increase in the economy since 1979, and transformed the nation into the world's second-largest economy and its biggest consumer of steel, copper and coal.

Chang Jian, an economist at Barclays Capital in Hong Kong said "Urbanization in China still has a long way to go, maybe for another 20 years."

Nobel economics laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz has cited urbanization in China, along with technology developments in the U.S., as the two most important issues that will shape the world's development during the 21st century.

China's urbanization has already benefited companies such as excavators makers Caterpillar Inc. and Komatsu Ltd., and iron ore miners BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Plc. Changing consumer tastes and growing wealth have also fueled demand for products sold by Apple Inc., General Motors Co. and Yum! Brands Inc.

China's city dwellers have 3 times the income of rural residents. Per capita urban disposable income increased 8.4% last year while per capita cash income increased 11.4% for rural people. Disposable income statistics for rural residents because much of their annual earnings aren't in cash, such as food they grow themselves. Rural income also grew faster than urban in come in 2010.

As the nation's urban population surges, China now faces the challenge of providing jobs, welfare and other social services to its city dwellers. doclink

Karen Gaia says: China has also said that it cannot feed all of its people - only 95%. The other 5%, is a large number, considering that it is 5% of 1.3 billion. Much of northern China is suffering desertification and the Yellow River no longer reaches the sea.

Nagorno-Karabakh: The National Womb

December 10, 2011, New York Times

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region in the southern Caucasus which has suffered a devastating war. It's government in 2008 introduced a birth encouragement program to replace the population. Each newlywed couple gets about $780 at their wedding. For each newborn, newlyweds get cash payments. Families with six or more children under 18 are given a house.

The conflict started in 1988 and escalated in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenians, with backing from neighboring Armenia, fought Azerbaijan. 65,000 ethnic Armenians and 40,000 ethnic Azeris were displaced. The Muslim Azeri population never returned, and neither did many of the Armenians who had fled. A cease-fire was declared in May 1994 and on Sept. 2, Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated 20 years of independence, though it remains unrecognized by the international community.

Unemployment is high in the area, salaries are low, opportunities are few; the young continue to leave in search of better futures abroad. The average monthly salary is $50.

In a region as economically deprived as Nagorno-Karabakh, is the solution simply to increase the birthrate? Without first improving education, infrastructure and employment opportunities for future generations, and raising the standard of living, the children of today's baby boom may grow up to leave in search of better lives abroad, just like the youths of today. doclink

From Russia Without Love

November 10, 2011, Huffington Post

Russian women have been able to rely on legal abortion for birth control for decades. At 73 per 100 births in 2009, its abortion rate is the highest in the world. However, Russia's population is dropping, and in July, President Dmitri Medvedev signed into law measures that require advertisements for abortion to focus on alleged health risks. In October a measure to cap abortions at 12 weeks and impose waiting periods, ultrasounds and counseling on those seeking abortion cleared two of the three legislative hurdles required before becoming law.

The effect will be largely on women's autonomy and rights, with no guarantee that the decline in population will reverse. In Russia contraception has always been harder to come by than safe abortion. It is said that contraception is a Western imposition, a danger to women's health and a threat to the social fabric. The Soviet system rightly saw that modern contraceptive methods promoted individual women's autonomy, and preferred to keep reproductive health care in the hands of state medical providers. Birth control pills, IUDs and condoms were of poor quality and hard to access.

According to a Reuters report published on November 8, "With the arrival to the market of modern methods of contraception in the 1990s, abortion rates fell by almost a third but have since dropped more slowly." But the debt crisis of 1998 resulted in lack of state funding for family planning programs, which contributed to the low rates of contraceptive usage. And doctors tend to give patients negative information about contraception, in part because they are not adequately reimbursed for contraceptive counseling.

If Russia is serious about reversing population decline, it should be serious about reducing maternal and infant mortality rates - among the highest in Europe. And Russia still has far to go in closing the gender wage gap and in meeting the need for child care and early-childhood education. These are the very factors women consider when making childbearing decisions.

Thankfully, proposed legislation that would have required a husband's consent for a married woman seeking an abortion or parental consent for women under 18, as well an amendment to strike abortion from the national health plan were dropped after proving unpopular in the polls.

There is no easy answer to demographic decline, and making abortion the scapegoat for decades of neglect to women's well-being will not help. Building a stronger society that supports women and children is the long, slow, sure road to a thriving Russia. doclink

Thai Prime Minister Warns of Bangkok Flooding

October 20, 2011, This Day Live/ Aljazeera

Thailand's prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, said of Thailand's capital, Bangkok: "We cannot block the water forever," adding that the government would choose which parts of the city to allow the water through to minimise the impact.

"The longer we block the water the higher it gets," she said. "We need areas that water can be drained through so the water can flow out to the sea."

The city's floodwalls have been reinforced in an attempt to prevent the floods pouring into the densely populated city from the central plains which are several metres under water in places. Water has been diverted to areas outside the main capital in a bid to prevent the Chao Phraya River bursting its banks.

Efforts to keep the city of 12 million people dry have been complicated by a seasonal high tide.

Three months of heavy monsoon rains have killed 320 people, damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions of people, mostly in northern and central Thailand, and forced tens of thousands to seek refuge in shelters. Currently, about one-third of Thailand's provinces are affected.

A government spokesman, said: "You have to understand that flood is about 38 per cent more than last year's…There is a huge volume of water coming down [equal to] the size of Hurricane Katrina and our existing plans is incapable of handling such situations.

To protect the commercial heart of the city, some areas to the north and east may be sacrificed. "Evacuations have not been ordered yet, but the people have been ordered to be on standby and get their belongings to higher grounds." doclink

Karen Gaia says: Bangkok is slowly sinking, affecting the large population that has moved there from surrounding rural areas.

Indonesia: Overpopulation Puts Java at Risk of Water Shortage

September 27, 2011, Yahoo News

Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said a population overload has put Java at risk of suffering a water shortage.

Java has around 128 million people, which is equal to 59% of Indonesia's population.­ More and more forests have been converted into farming areas. The environmental carrying capacity based on the ecological footprint method shows that the environmental carrying capacity has been surpassed," Nugroho said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted that the average rainfall in the 2010-2020 period would be less than the 1978-2007 period. doclink

One-Child Policy a Surprising Boon for China Girls

September 04, 2011, The Associated Press

In 1978, women made up only 24.2% of the student population at Chinese colleges and universities. By 2009, that number rose to nearly half, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

In contrast, women in India make up 37.6% of those enrolled at institutes of higher education, according to government statistics.

Since 1979, China's family planning rules have barred nearly all urban families from having a second child in a bid to stem population growth. With no male heir competing for resources, parents have spent more on their daughters' education and well-being, a groundbreaking shift after centuries of discrimination.

"They've basically gotten everything that used to only go to the boys," said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China's family planning policy.

"In the past, girls were raised to be good wives and mothers," said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China's family planning policy. "They were going to marry out anyway, so it wasn't a big deal if they didn't want to study."

Today's urban Chinese parents "perceive their daughters as the family's sole hope for the future," and try to help them to outperform their classmates, regardless of gender.

Some demographers argue that China's fertility rate would have fallen sharply even without the one-child policy because economic growth tends to reduce family size. In that scenario, Chinese girls may have gotten more access to education anyway, though the gains may have been more gradual.

Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it's harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.

When sonogram technology arrived in the 1980's, some families were able to engineer a male heir by terminating pregnancies when the fetus was a girl. Chinese traditionally prefer boys because they carry on the family name and are considered better earners. 43 million girls have "disappeared" in China due to gender-selective abortion as well as neglect and inadequate access to health care and nutrition, according to a recent UN report.

"It is gendercide," said Therese Hesketh, a University College London professor who has studied China's skewed sex ratio. To combat the problem, China allows families in rural areas, where son preference is strongest, to have a second child if their first is a girl. The government has also launched education campaigns promoting girls and gives cash subsidies to rural families with daughters.

Beijing-based population expert Yang Juhua has determined that single children in China tend to be the best educated, while those with elder brothers get shortchanged. China has many loopholes to the one-child rule, including a few cities that have experimented with a two-child policy for decades.

While women have reached gender parity in education, they remain woefully underrepresented in government, have higher suicide rates than males, often face domestic violence and workplace discrimination and by law must retire at a younger age than men.

It remains to be seen whether the new generation of degree-wielding women can alter the balance outside the classroom. doclink

Beijing: in Defence of Sex Education in Schools

September 02, 2011, Xinhuanet

While older Chinese may be shocked by the idea of sex education, in recent years China has seen a dramatic increase in premarital sex, and unwanted pregnancies and abortions among young girls.

For that reason sex education classes, complete with graphic drawings of sexual organs, will be introduced to a primary school in Beijing from this session on an experimental basis.

Medical clinics in China perform an estimated 13 million abortions a year. Add to that the abortions performed in unregistered medical clinics and then there are the 10 million abortion-inducing pills are sold every year.

Many people in China lack even the basic knowledge to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Li Ying, a professor at Peking University, says that young people need to acquire better knowledge about sex.

Nearly two-thirds of the abortions in the country's hospitals are performed on single women aged between 20 and 29 and nearly half of the women who underwent abortions said they did not use contraceptives, according to a study and a government official.

In countries like the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and Singapore, all schools have sex education courses which begin from the early grades, even in primary schools.

Sex education in schools doesn't necessarily mean encouraging "sexual liberation". In China, where people are relatively conservative about sex, introducing sex education in schools in the early grades will help youngsters avoid unsafe sex rather than encourage them to have sex.

Because parents do not tell their offspring the facts about sexual activity and how to engage in it responsibly, every generation believes it "invented" sex. Sex is a normal activity that is on the minds of both men and women, therefore, humans do not have sex just for procreation. Sex serves multiple purposes, including personal pleasure, social bonding - as seen among live-in partners and spouses - and procreation.

Children and teenagers images and stories about romance and sex in the media almost every day. But the information they get may not be wholesome or accurate. Avoiding discussions on the subject won't prevent young people from taking interest in or having sex. It will only force them to get information from other sources which could be misleading and even dangerous, and could lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

Sex education should be appropriate to the age of the student. For older teens, the topics could include the physical mechanics of sex or "what sex is", the nature of sexual attraction, sexual feelings and sexual pleasure, various approaches to values related to sex, sexually transmissible diseases and how to prevent them, safe sex practices, sexual preferences, how to say "no" to sex and how to accept a "no", and actions to take if one becomes pregnant.

Sex - like other aspects of our lives - be dealt with frankly and appropriately in the educational process. doclink

Philippines: UN to Stop Funding Philippine Population Plan

September 01, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

The United Nations is planning to cut back its $1 million aid to the Philippine governments birth control program. The UN is cutting back next year due to lack of funding from members.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said that the fund was used for birth control injectable drugs and pills especially to those who just gave birth. She feared that the Philippines could experience a spike in its population growth rate recently pegged at 2.4% per annum.

This makes the passage of the Reproductive Health bill more urgent to ensure sustained funding for family planning programs. doclink

Afghanistan Fights Population Growth with Birth Control

August 23, 2011, Reuters

Afghanistan's Ministry of Health warns that the country's population of 30 million will double (see comment below), stunting opportunities for economic growth in one of the world's poorest countries, so the government is trying to curb the growth by launching a "multi-sectoral effort," which would include the use of contraceptives.

Despite escalating violence and a surge in civilian casualties in the NATO-led war against insurgents, the Afghan women manage to have 6.3 children on average over their lifetime, according to the United Nations.

Wagma Battoor from anti-poverty organization CARE's Kabul branch said: "In countries like Afghanistan, where women are illiterate and repressed, (family planning) could be difficult." In rural areas and the Taliban strongholds of the south and east, many women still seek permission from a male relative for most decisions, including leaving their homes. Battoor said for contraceptives to work in Afghanistan, men must be involved.

"In addition to providing education, counseling and improving women's access to birth control supply, it is equally important to include men in the family planning discussion," she said.

But Khalilullah Mohammad, a lecturer in Islamic law at Kabul University said, "It is not up to us to control the reproduction of children." .. "The holy Koran tells us not to kill your children... If anyone asks me advice on this new plan, I will strictly oppose it."

The relatively high success with hormone-containing birth control in wealthier Muslim countries such as Iran and Jordan prompted views that birth control for fear of poverty or to prevent conception permanently is unlawful under Islam. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Some Muslim scholars agree that birth control for the purpose of spacing children is acceptable. Education of women and avoiding child marriage will also reduce the fertility rate. With a growth rate of 2.375% (CIA Factbook), Afghanistan's population will double in about 30 years. The CIA Factbook also estimates the fertility rate at 5.39 (2011), not 6.3.

The Main Threat to the Economy of Tajikistan in 2011

August 12, 2011,

Tajikistan is a war-ravaged Central Asian country that is the poorest of the CIS states. Over the last 10 years the population grew from 5.5 million to 6.25 million while the domestic product decreased from 4 billion 615 million to 1 billion 900 million Somoni (approximately 674 million dollars). 74.4% of the population are rural dwellers, which is growing faster than the urban population. The population is forecast to reach 8 million by 2020, according to President Rakhmonov.

In June 2010 the Parliament of Tajikistan adopted the "Law on Reproductive Health", which includes a number of measures to control fertility.

According to various international organizations, 2 million Tajiks are starving. 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. In rural areas industry has collapsed and there is lack of demand for labor.

During the years of independence, agriculture in Tajikistan was degraded and the country almost completely lost the culture of farming. In addition, in recent years have sharply deteriorated, and weather conditions are constant heavy rain, hail and floods, locust invasion.

However rainfall in the mountains over last fall and winter was only 5 to 15% of average annual norms. The current lack of rainfall is like the winter of 2001, when Tajikistan was faced with severe drought, which caused damage to the economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Some experts are already saying that harvest thousands of hectares of rain-fed (no irrigation) fields in Tajikistan in autumn sown winter wheat are irretrievably lost.

The irrigation system in the country, established during the Soviet Union did not receive funding and has been virtually destroyed.

Tajikistan now exports most of its grain from Kazakhstan and Russia. Increase in exports may lead to depletion of foreign reserves in Tajikistan.

Many of the country's able-bodied male population are leaving the country because of the failure of agriculture.The fields of the republic are run by women and children. Over 90% of Tajik migrants are currently in Russia and their number could reach 2 million.

Corruption is keeping grants from international financial organizations and donor countries, dedicated to improving the efficiency of agriculture, from being used for their original purpose.

Click on the link in the headline above to read more. doclink

In Pakistan, Birth Control and Religion Clash

August 10, 2011, NPR

Nearly 4 million babies are born in Pakistan every year, and most are born into poverty. The World Bank says 60% of Pakistanis live on less than $2 a day, according to a new government survey,

Yet clerics in religiously conservative Pakistan tell the Muslim majority that the Quran instructs women to keep bearing as many babies as possible and say that modern family planning is a Western convention that offends Islam.

But a woman can temporarily put off becoming pregnant. The mufti says the Quran encourages mothers to space their pregnancies and to breast-feed their babies for prolonged periods. During that time the man may also use condoms and the rhythm method.

The mufti Zakaria says being poor should in no way limit having babies. Referencing the Quran, he says, "God will provide the resources and no one will starve." The Quran also instructs that children must not be deprived of a proper upbringing. However, in Pakistan 38% of all children under 5 are underweight, and according to government data, malnutrition is widespread among mothers.

The mufti answers: "Every society has its own value system. You should not judge us by yours. Children in the West lead a luxurious life. Earth is their heaven. Our children should not be compared with them," the mufti says. "Muslims don't pay much heed to the mundane pleasures of this world. Our reward will come in the next life."

The mufti adds that the West has taken modern contraception too far by removing the fear of getting pregnant and therefore removing women's sexual inhibitions. In Pakistan, "if a woman's fear is removed," says the mufti, she will stray into bad behavior "and offend God."

70% of married women use no birth control method at all. While the government is ineffectual in promoting family planning, Dr. Yasmin Raashid, a leader in obstetrics and gynecology in Pakistan says if properly followed, the Quran's teachings about spacing pregnancies would automatically mean smaller families. She says more than anything else illiteracy undermines family planning in Pakistan.

"Educated mothers limit their families," she says. "The tragedy in our country has been that the majority of women in Pakistan are not educated." She says educating young girls is the single best policy for reducing the country's high fertility rate and for achieving smaller, healthier families.

In Sri Lanka the literacy rate is 91%. and the fertility rate is 2.3, compared with Pakistan, where it is 3.9. In Pakistan, infant mortality is nearly six times as high as in Sri Lanka - a smaller, poorer country.

"And the only thing that you see different there is that women are educated there," Raashid says. "They know about their rights. They know what has to be done where their children are concerned. They know what to do where their own health is concerned.

In Pakistan, less than 1% of GDP is spent on health care. 12,000 mothers die in childbirth in Pakistan each year. Pakistan must invest in more midwives. Only 25% of women being delivered by skilled birth attendants.

Islamic law prevalent in Pakistan says the soul is deemed to come into the fetus at four months, and so up to four months, abortion may be induced for "good cause." But abortion has become a dangerous form of birth control as women submit themselves to unskilled practitioners. It's the fifth-leading cause of maternal death in Pakistan because of the infections related to incomplete abortions and septic abortions.

On woman the interviewer met said she was already ill and overburdened with seven children. But she's pregnant again. She wants to stop having babies, and told her husband so. But her husband wanted a second daughter. doclink

Philippines: Family Planning a 'Sacred' Choice for 82% of Pinoys

August 09, 2011, GMA News

A survey of 1,200 adults by Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that 82% of those polled consider family planning as a "sacred" personal choice that should not be interfered with. The poll showed that Filipinos want the government to provide information and subsidize family planning methods.

The rating was 21 points higher than the 61% rating on the same issue in November 1990.

82% agreed with the statement "the choice of a family planning method is a personal choice of couples and no one should interfere with it." Only 8% disagreed while 9% were undecided.

The RH bill currently pending in Congress promotes both natural and artificial means of family planning and pushes for sex education in schools. But the bill is opposed by the Catholic Church which allows only natural family planning.

73% also said if a couple wanted to practice family planning, relevant information on "all legal methods" should be provided by the government. And 68% agreed that "the government should fund all means of family planning, be it natural or artificial means."

About half of the respondents disagreed that the use of pills, condoms, and intra-uterine devices can be considered as abortifacients. doclink

Tale of Two Countries: Thailand and the Philippines

August 08, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dr. Nibhon Debavalya, Thailands leading population expert, and Meechai Viravaidya, the family planning and anti-HIV-AIDS activist who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994, tell the same story.

Starting from the same point in the early 70s, Thailand and the Philippines took separate routes, with contrasting results.

Thailand now has a much smaller population, a much bigger economy, fewer people living in poverty and a better quality of life for the general population. Thailand, took family planning seriously.

In 1975 they both started with roughly the same population size, a high population growth rate, a high fertility rate and a high proportion of people living under the poverty line. Thailand had a slightly smaller GDP than the Philippines.

Thailand was able to radically reduce its population growth rate to 0.6% while the Philippines inched down to 2.04% in the period 1970-2010.

During 1970-2008, Thailands GDP per capita grew by 4.4%, while the Philippines grew by 1.4%.

By 2008, Thailands total GDP was $273 billion while the Philippines was $167 billion.

By 2010, there were 93.6 million Filipinos, or over 20 million more than the 68.1 million Thais.

By 2010, only 9.6% of Thais lived under the national poverty line while 26.4% of Filipinos did.

Comparing amount of corruption, economic policies, social programs such as asset redistribution measures and agrarian reform, the two countries are similar.

One cannot deny that the rapid reduction of population growth and fertility in Thailand and its slow decline in the Philippines played a very major role in explaining the difference in the post-1970s economic and social performance of the two countries.

In Thailand the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) fell from 5.5 to 2.2 in only 20 years, which was the swiftest rate over the period among all countries in Southeast Asia. Nibhon has attributed this to:

*The fall in the death rate owing to better health services and the rising cost of education that Thais saw as the main vehicle for social mobility combined to make people realize the economic cost associated with having more babies, especially the rising cost of obtaining quality education for ones offspring.

*The high level of female autonomy in the family and religion. Unlike Catholicism, Buddhism does not have anything against family planning, except abortion.

*There was a latent demand for smaller families which could not be filled owing to lack of knowledge of and access to effective methods.

*The national governments durable commitment to a comprehensive program that systematically provided information and contraceptives, especially to the poor and in rural areas.

NGOs, such as Meechais Population and Community Development Association educated rural Thais on the different methods of family planning, while the government that provided access to contraceptives in the grassroots.

The decline in fertility from 3% in 1970 to 2.2% by 1984 was a 30% decline in 14 years, one of the most significant declines ever observed in any developing country, says Nibhon.

Demographically, Thailand was well positioned when Japanese capital flowed into the country during the golden age of economic growth from 1985 to 1995.

Instead of the fruits of economic growth being eaten up by the need to feed larger and larger families, the reproductive revolution led to smaller families, triggered a higher savings and investment rate and enabled the government to divert more and more funds from expanding primary education facilities to investing more in high school and college education to improve the quality of the work force.

Meechai, who had played a key role in family planning, also took a high-profile role in promoting the condom to stop the spread of AIDS, taking his campaign so aggressively to sex workers that the condom came to be known as meechai in Thailand. The 100-percent-Condom-Use-Campaign aimed to empower sex workers to refuse sex service when customers did not agree to use a condom. No condom, no sex.

Owing to the success of government efforts to reduce fertility and people living longer, Thailand now has a higher proportion of elderly people than a few years ago. However labor productivity has risen, meaning fewer workers are needed to produce the same output.

With so many resources freed that would otherwise go to educating large numbers of children entering early education, more investments can be made to upgrade the quality of post-elementary education and the productivity of the working age population that is growing more slowly in absolute numbers.

Surveys have shown a very widespread unmet need for family planning in the Philippines. This could indicate that were the RH bill to be approved, the effects in terms of a decline in the fertility rate and birth rate could be just as swift as in Thailand, despite the objections of the Catholic Church hierarchy.

In the Philippines the only area of family life where there is a relative absence of female control is reproduction. Here it is not male macho that appears to be the problem but lack of knowledge or access to contraceptives.

Male coercion in the Philippines is not absent: it assumes the form of an ideological and political obstruction posed by the Catholic hierarchys opposition to state-sponsored family planning. The passage of the Reproductive Health, Family Planning and Population and Development Bill (RH bill) would severely weaken this patriarchal barrier to womens reproductive control. doclink

Japan's Food Chain Threat Multiplies as Radiation Spreads

August 07, 2011, Bloomberg News

Radiation fallout from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant poses a growing threat to Japan's food chain. 1,183 cattle at 58 farms were fed hay containing radioactive cesium before being shipped to meat markets. 4,108 kilograms of beef suspected of being contaminated was inadvertantly put on sale at 174 stores across Japan

The government on July 19 banned cattle shipments from Fukushima prefecture, though not before some had been slaughtered and shipped to supermarkets. A ban on shiitake mushrooms from another part of Fukushima was introduced on July 23 because of cesium levels, the health ministry said.

Seafood is another concern after cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant climbed to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last week,

Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in central Japan, said "It's possible that contaminated groundwater leaked from the plant."

Japan has no centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food, leaving local authorities and farmers conducting voluntary tests. Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from Dai-Ichi.

On June 6, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the plant released about 770,000 tera becquerels of radioactive material into the air between March 11 and March 16, doubling an earlier estimate.

That's about 14% of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster in modern-day Ukraine. About 2 million people in Ukraine are under permanent medical monitoring, 25 years after the accident, according to the nation's embassy in Tokyo.

Cases of thyroid cancer in Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine, increased for at least 10 years after 1986 in children younger than 14 and for almost 20 years among 20-24 year olds, according to research by Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University. doclink

Karen Gaia says: as our population increases, so does our demand for energy, which puts pressure on energy providers to take greater risks, such as in the BP Gulf disaster and now Fukushima.

China Tones Down Family Planning Slogans, Enforcement

August 02, 2011, Xinhua

Ten years ago harsh-sounding family planning slogans could be seen painted on the sides of buildings. "One more baby means one more tomb" and "first baby delivered, litigation imposed after the second, and the third and fourth killed!" were used on the signs to deter parents from having additional children after the adoption of China's one-child policy.

Today China's National Population and Family Planning Commission is working to replace the phrases with kinder, gentler suggestions. The new slogans will appeal to people's positive emotions and express humanity while using concise, standardized language.

The slogans started out "relatively mild" when the one-child policy was implemented in 1979, saying things like: "one child is fairly adequate, two are just enough and three are excessive."

Family planning efforts encountered great obstacles in the countryside during the 1980s and 1990s because rural families tended to have more children when the cost of raising a child was low. Authorities resored to harsh and illicit means to crack down on excess births. Teams of anonymous thugs were hired to confiscate livestock and food from families who violated the policy, with some of the families even held in detention..

In 1995 the National Population and Family Planning Commission banned the practice of detaining and torturing families with excess children, as well as the practices of confiscating their property and levying nonexistent fines.

Now there is a tendency to reward families that have strictly followed population control policies. For example, households with a single child or two female children receive cash grants, with their children entitled to receive free insurance and education.

In one Province family planning authorities provide free services such as premarital counseling, reproductive risk assessments, parental training classes for parents-to-be and early education for children under three years of age.

In 2007, the slogans included warmer-sounding sentiments such as "the Mother Earth is too tired to sustain more children" and "both boys and girls are in their parents' hearts." doclink

Bangladesh: On Population and Policies

July 19, 2011, The Financial Express

by Abdul Bayes, Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University

In the early days since Bangladesh's independence, the very high human to land ratio precluded any positive projection of socio-economic progress. But Bangladesh managed to thrive through thick and thin and, over time, population growth decelerated and food production accelerated to keep the country on an even keel. Thanks to the family planning movement and technological breakthrough in food production - two of the important advancements that Malthus possibly overlooked in delivering the doomsday thesis.

The population of Bangladesh is estimated to be 142 - 150 million - roughly 20 million more than a decade ago and about double over 1974. The household size has shrunk to 4.4 compared to 5.5 in 1991. This could be due to migration and population control measures accompanied by growing awareness about small family size.

Taking the census result at its face value, the population density in the country has increased to 964 people per square kilometre from 834 in 2001. The late Dr Mahabubul Huq's once said: if all the people of the world were accommodated in the USA, the population density there would not be as high as it is in Bangladesh. It is the third most populated country in Southeast Asia after India and Pakistan.

Bangladesh's annual growth rate dropped from about 3.0% immediately after independence, to 2.3% in the 1980s, to 1.5% in the 1990s and now 1.34%. Still, every year about 2.0 million people are added to the total. The male-female gap has reduced. Now Bangladesh has 100.3 males against 100 females as compared to 106.4 males against 100 females in 2001. It may be due to preference for boys in South Asia. It is believed that boys will provide support to the parents in their old age.

The population growth rate must be reduced further in the wake of dwindling cultivable land. An average Bangladeshi woman of child bearing age produces 2.15 children now as against 5.1 in 1981. The infant mortality rate has gone down from 111 per 1000 live births to 39 currently.

The massive campaign against population expansion and for population control must firmly stand up shedding all sorts of complacency about declining growth rate. Fertility must be contained. Amartya Sen argues, when people "will know that, if they have a duty towards those who are not yet born, that duty is not to give them existence but to give them happiness".

This type of reasoning buttressed by the expansion of education, especially female education would lead people to lower fertility rates and smaller families which people would choose voluntarily. Bangladesh has appreciably traveled through this process adopting the family planning movement and greater availability of knowledge and facilities that helped reduce the fertility rate from 5.1 in 1981 to 2.2 in 2009 to debunk the belief that people will not voluntarily adopt family planning in the less developed countries.

At the end of the day, it is employment generation that raises opportunity costs of children and reduces family size. Another important area is health care facilities, particularly in rural areas. It is needed for income generation, to reduce infant mortality, and thus affect fertility choices. doclink

Indonesia: The Thinker: Planning Families

July 19, 2011, The Jakarta Globe

Family planning had been relegated to obscurity for over a decade, but is gradually emerging as one of the solutions to several pressing problems faced by Indonesia, including an alarmingly high rate of population growth, the perennial problem of poverty, with its attendant problems of social and economic unrest, and the future burden the elderly will place on the state.

Indonesia's population grew at a rate of 1.5% from 2000 to 2010, adding an additional 3-4 million people each year. Government development programs designed to improve the welfare of the people may be derailed by uncontrolled population growth.

The transition to democracy in the reform era following the fall of Suharto in 1998, and the devolution of fiscal and political power to the regions that occurred under decentralization led to a re-evaluation of the public policies and values — irrespective of their intrinsic good — instilled by the deposed regime.

For political leaders bent on staying in favor with their constituents, there is little incentive to prioritize family planning over direct assistance programs that have a clear impact on the community.

But an effective family planning program would keep development programs and their potential beneficiaries in a state of equilibrium. A wide range of community-based development programs already initiated by the government would lead to more sustainable solutions if a well-thought-out family planning regime was firmly embedded in those programs.

The various targets set out in the UN Millennium Development Goals would more likely to be attained if family planning received sufficient emphasis in MDG programs.

With such a wealth of experience in family planning, Indonesia does not have to reinvent the wheel to set up another viable program. All the nation needs is an enduring commitment to venture in this direction once again. doclink

Asia's 163 Million Missing Girls

The Daily Beast (US)

Mara Hvistendahl is the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. She puts the number of missing girls in Asia at 163 million, more than the entire female population in the U.S. The imbalance was made possible by gender-selection abortion practices not only in China, but in India and other developing countries -- and in ethnic Asian communities in the U.S.

As a result, tens of millions of men in Asia, 'surplus males,' who, without female counterparts, may purchase women from poorer countries.

Sex selection has taken hold thanks to technology, lower birth rates, and deep-seated cultural biases that require a boy to carry on a family's lineage.

Abortion is accessible and widely used in most cultures, easier to obtain than in the U.S. There are nearly three abortions for every birth in some countries. "The availability of relatively inexpensive screening with unconditional abortion is a game changer," says Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at American Enterprise Institute.

Falling birth rates in developing countries, which improve the health and education of mothers and children, have the unintended consequence of encouraging sex-selection abortion. When a woman gave birth to six children, the odds were 99% that one would be a boy. With two children, it's only a 24% chance. "It's not that women want more boys, they have less chance of getting them," says Hvistendahl. Eberstadt says that women will take whatever sex with the first child, but after that, it's "very apparent there?s a massive parental intervention going on."

Sex selection happens more frequently with the urban, educated middle-class, says Hvistendahl, adding that it seems paradoxical that educated women are more likely to abort a fetus. Women in China are doing better than ever before, with more women in Ph.D. programs than men. "Yet this is happening at the same time,? she says. "If you don?t have a boy, you lose status." doclink

Karen Gaia says: this is a big surprise to me that educated women are doing sex selection. According to some experts, sex selection raises the replacement fertility because there are fewer women to bear children.

Birth Control Fits the Bill in the Philippines

June 8, 2011, New Straits Times (Malaysia)

In the case of the Philippines population growth is out of control.

You can argue from superstition, from authority or from fact (science). Where religion is involved many folks in the Philippines are going to appeal to No 2: authority, which winds up being the Pope.

But the Pope doesn't have the right to speak for the Philippines as a whole. Catholics predominate, but there are lots of Muslims, breakaway Christians and mainstream Christians who happen not to be Catholic.

Father Joaquin Bernas, priest and former president of Ateneo de Manila University is supporting the Reproductive Health Bill, despite vituperative denunciations.

The bill, RH4244 or "An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and For Other Purposes", establishes means of educating school kids on sex and their choices ahead and provide non-abortive methods of birth control. Governments would ensure the availability of reproductive healthcare services, including family planning and prenatal care.

Most countries would have no problem with this bill. And Catholics almost nowhere else give a hoot what the Pope or church say on birth control.

Now that the president, the most authoritative ex-president and numerous writers and teachers are on board in support of RH4244, things are changing.

But, meantime, one reads arguments attempting to show that more mouths to feed doesn't mean more mouths to feed, but more people to farm the (almost disappearing) soil. Or that the overflow people should move to uninhabited areas in the archipelago, even uninhabited islands. Are there roads into these places? Schools? Hospitals?

Supporters of the bill are being threatened with excommunication. Some proclaim a condom is a "murder weapon".

In 1970, the Philippines and Thailand were about equal in numbers and wealth. Thailand introduced family planning; the Philippines maintained its voodoo attitude. Thailand stabilized not much above the 1970s level and doubled its income relative to the Philippines.

It is funny that Malta just voted to permit divorce while only the Philippines remains. Most of my younger friends grew up not knowing their fathers, who just drifted off to start a new family somewhere else. So much for the status quo protecting the family.

The fact that the president who has proposed this bill is the son of late president Cory Aquino, protégée of Cardinal Sin and dead set against family planning, may be good news enough.

The overall majority popular support for the bill may finally just be enough to give the Congress enough teeth to withstand the clawing of the church and its advocates. doclink

Global Food Crisis: China Land Deal Causes Unease in Argentina

June 01, 2011, Guardian (London)

A Chinese-owned agribusiness firm Beidahuang signed an agreement last year to buy a large swath of land in Patagonia. Critics claim the Chinese plan will result in heavy agrochemical use, ecological degradation, and strained water resources.

Diets in China's urban areas are diets are changing rapidly as the economy grows. People are eating more industrially produced meat and dairy products, and buying more processed foods.

China can no longer provide the soya that is the feedstock for this revolution, so Beidahuang has joined the global scramble for land and water that has accelerated since food prices spiked in 2008.

Up to 790,000 acres of privately owned farmland, along with irrigation rights and a concession on the San Antonio port will be acquired.

Beidahuang will also buy palm oil plantations and grain terminals on 200,000 ha in the Philippines.

Beidahuang is the leading soya producer in China and one of the country's five largest soya processors. It also raises more than 600,000 cows, 1.3m pigs and more than 6m chickens at any one time.

Manuel Accatino, the region's deputy secretary for agriculture in Río Negro, said. "We can foresee global shortages of land, water and energy, and Río Negro can offer all three."

Argentinian environmental groups and constitutional experts are outraged an have been working with the federal government that would restrict foreign ownership of Argentinian land.

President Barcesat said, "We need our own people to eat well first, and after that we can feed the rest of the world. We want more small and middle-sized owners, we don't like the excessive concentration, and we want farmers who will be careful with the land, not exploit it."

Research from the International Land Coalition, and Oxfam Novib, the Netherlands affiliate of Oxfam International, has identified more than 1,200 international land deals covering more than 80m hectares since 2000 - the vast majority of them after 2007. More than 60% of the land targeted was in Africa.

The Río Negro region is famous for its fruit orchards, which produce 70% of the country's apples and pears, exports eaten in northern Europe when the fruit season in that continent ends.

Dams have already cut the flow of the Negro rive and Chinese plans to invest $20m immediately to build irrigation infrastructure would strain resources further. Opponents claim that since soya cultivation is highly mechanised it will prompt unemployment in the area, as it has elsewhere in the country where many rural communities have seen an increase in deep poverty as jobs are lost.

Elvio Mendioroz, president of Uñopatún, an agro-ecoclogical group that opposes the Chinese deal, said the agreement had been kept secret. "China has run out of land to feed its people, and is suffering drought and soil erosion, so they come here. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it is not just overconsumption by rich individuals in China, but it is also the large population of China, as well as the growing number of people in China with improved lifestyles. We cannot blame Chinese for wanting to eat like Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.

Dispelling Myths: Population Growth – Problem Or Hype?

May 27, 2011, UCL Institute for Global Health - Population Footprints

This video is 48 minutes long, but it is well worth waiting for the last speaker, Dr Eliya Zulu, who does an excellent job of dispeling some common misconceptions about population, mainly that the North is imposing population control upon the south. Dr Zulu is the Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) and President of the Union for African Population Studies, with over 20 years' experience in international development, population change, urbanization, health systems and policy analysis. doclink

Philippines: Salves Life a Strong Case for Reproductive Health Bill

May 26, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Salve, a 37-year-old woman in Valenzuela City, has eight children and is pregnant again. She is also hungry; she and her partner of 22 years, Alfredo, do not take much.

Salve works in a plastics factory and earns P1,500 on good days; P700 on bad days. She and her partner make about P5,200 a month. After expenses for the house, electricity, and water, there is enought for rice porridge, bought at P3 a cup. Small fish, bought at P20 a handful, are delicacies.

Not one of her children has been able to finish his or her studies, due to money restraints. The highest grade one of her children reached was 6th.

The family lives in a 32-square-meter enclosed space with two tables and a makeshift wooden bed. A hole in the ground serves as the toilet.

She and her children barely fit on the bed. Alfredo sleeps on the floor. She has had to throw out two of her elder sons several times in the past.

Salve has given birth to 12 of Alfredos children. Three died of sepsis, or the invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms. Another, an 18 year old, was run over by a bus.

Salve admits that her family experiences financial difficulties primarily because she has too many children.

In an effort to lessen the number of mouths they were obligated to feed, she and her partner tried abstinence. But the attempt did not work.

She is not opposed to sex education. Had she known about the importance of family planning much earlier, she would not have allowed herself to get pregnant so many times, she says.

This view is in line with some of the provisions of the measure that proposes the integration of sexual awareness in school curriculums and offers couples an informed choice in ways to plan their families. The proposed legislation is being debated upon in the plenary in the House of Representatives.

President Aquino has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage.

Salve plans to undergo tubal ligation to avoid getting pregnant again. doclink

Rapid Urbanization Affects Public Health

May 26, 2011, China Daily

In China more than an estimated 100 million people have moved from the countryside to rapidly expanding urban centers in the country during the past 20 years. This rapid urbanization has significant repercussions on migrants' health.

Changes in diet and physical exertion, increasing obesity in society and heightening the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases occur with urbanization.

Poverty, vulnerability to sexual abuse and exploitation, hazardous working conditions and separation from social support networks are additional mobility-related risks among migrants, many affecting women, children and the elderly.

Migrants may be young and healthy on their arrival in cities, but poor living conditions and overcrowded houses and neighborhoods increase the incidence of diseases such as malaria, typhoid and respiratory ailments. Lately the problem of rising TB infection has been compounded by delayed diagnosis and inadequate care.

Migrants show high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS and tend to spread the virus when they return to rural areas, where health facilities are not as well equipped to deal with the infection as they are in cities.

Many migrants lack knowledge of how to use existing health services and have insufficient money to pay a hospital for treatment.

Many migrant women work in industries where they come in contact with environmental contaminants that are dangerous to their reproductive system, especially if they are pregnant.

Toxic substances in the environment increase the risk of abortion, birth defects, fetal growth and neo-natal death.

Newborns are especially vulnerable to disease if they grow up in overcrowded places and are subjected to poor hygiene, excessive noise and lack of space for recreation and study. They suffer not only from a hostile physical environment, but also from stress and other factors such as violence that such environments create.

Many children are left at home by migrants, in many cases in the care of grandparents. Adolescents of migrant parents tend to have a less healthy diet, become overweight and are more prone to smoking and drinking alcohol, often explained by the lack of parental control.

For the poor in the cities, drinking water supply, housing, solid waste disposal, transportation and healthcare are either deficient or non-existent. Instead they get an extra dose of environmental pollution, because many industries tend to cluster in outlying areas where regulations are comparatively lax. Unemployment, poverty and crowded living conditions contribute to violence, substance abuse and mental illness.

Motor vehicles are a big source of air pollution, having a serious impact on health, plus they cause pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Crowded urban neighborhoods, combined with poor sanitary conditions and inadequate waste removal, create conditions for the spread of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, TB and cholera. Inadequate sanitation is an important risk factor for diarrheal and parasitic diseases.

Given the serious effects that urbanization can have on health, it is essential to include health considerations into policymaking. Since the poor and migrants suffer many of the negative effects more acutely, it is important to assess their needs properly. More efforts should be made to devise prevention policies in industries where migrants are concentrated.

Cities are magnets that attract migrants for the opportunities they offer but they must provide a safe and stable environment for people to prosper. doclink

Philippines: Surging Population, Rising Troubles

May 24, 2011, People and Planet

The Catholic Bishops Conference warned 23 years ago of Nuestro perdido Eden - our imperiled Eden, echoing the country's national hero, Dr Jose Rizal. Today his words have proved prophetic.

Rapid population growth, unchecked and unequal access to natural resources and their subsequent over-exploitation, uncontrolled logging, waste disposal and mining and the pollution of rivers, lakes and sea are the root causes of the environmental destruction and degradation both in coastal and upland areas, states a report released by the German Technical Cooperation agency (GTZ).

All this destruction and its consequences can be curbed only if the population stops growing, now at about 100 million - and projected to reach 140 million by 2050. But Catholic priests and anti-reproductive health bill activists say "No way."

Metro Manila went from 10 million people in 1992 to 16 million. Population growth that is too fast does not leave time to provide public services and the stresses from rapid urbanization harm the environment and the people living in it, according to Gregory C. Ira, who has worked with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction.

Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 saw forests blanketing 95% of the country. A WWF study showed that more than 119,000 hectares of forest cover disappears yearly, all likely to disappear in 10 years.

"Approximately two-thirds of the country's original mangroves have been lost," reported Kathleen Mogelgaard, of Population Action International (PAI). "The productivity of the country's agricultural lands and fisheries is declining as these areas become increasingly degraded and pushed beyond their capacity to produce." .. "Rapid forest loss has eliminated habitat for unique and threatened plant and animal species," she added.

Fires, slash-and-burn farmers and commercial loggers are mostly to blame. In the past, forest resources helped fuel the economy. In the 1970s, the country was tops among world timber exporters. Urbanization is also to blame.

75% of the over 30 million poor live in the rural areas where poverty has forced many of them to invade the forest.

Deforestation has altered the climatic condition in the country. Periods of drought have become more common and extensive in the dry season while floods have prevailed in the rainy months.

The removal of forest cover has increased soil erosion in the uplands. And siltation, caused by erosion, shortens the productive life spans of dams and reservoirs, reducing the life span of the Magat reservoir, for example, from a probable life span of 100 years to 25 years, and the Ambuklao reservoir from 60 to 32 years.

Deforestation has also reduced the volume of groundwater available for domestic purposes. Cebu, having lost all forest cover, is 99% dependent on groundwater and more than half of its towns and cities, excluding Metro Cebu, have no access to potable water. The country has lost 30% to 50% of its water resources in 20 years.

Soil erosion also affects agriculture, which contributes 20% to the country's gross domestic product and employs nearly one-third of the country's total labor force. Nutrients are lost from the soil, reducing crop yields and leading to expanded use of chemical fertilizers, which in turn, pollutes water sources. The eroded soil is carried by the rivers to the coasts, where it interferes with fish nursery areas.

Rapid population growth and the increasing human pressure on coastal resources have resulted in the massive degradation of the coral reefs, which are some of the world's most ecologically-fragile ecosystems, each reef supporting as many as 3,000 species of marine life. In the Philippines, an estimated 10-15% of the total fisheries come from coral reefs.

Gandhi once said: "There is sufficiency for man's needs, but not for man's greed." Nor, it seems, for ill-judged dogmas and short-term planning. doclink

Family Planning Hits Culture Gap in Rural Nepal

May 20, 2011, Women's enews

Mrs. Chepang, 42, has conceived 26 children during the last 30 years. Her husband promised to feed her and the children and if she dies in the process, will take care of her cremation.

She was married at age 12 and believed that frequent births were natural.

Only two of her infants are alive today. "Some died in the womb, some within a few days of their birth and some after six months," she said. She often had no help during labor.

After her 23rd child, she suffered from uterine prolapse, which caused regular bleeding, dizziness and pain. But she continued to give birth. Eventually, her ability to move became limited to dragging herself to the toilet.

Nepal's fertility rate fell from 6.3 in 1976 to 3.1 in 2006, and the contraceptive prevalancy rose from 26% in 1996 to 44% in 2006 thanks to family planning promotion, but "There is a dearth of family planning services, methods and devices at the health posts" in rural, remote and socially backward societies of Nepal, says Aswini Rana, a counsellor with the Family Planning Association of Nepal.

Mrs. Chepang's husband once had to carry her for more than an hour to reach a health post.

"We have started to promote appropriate methods of family planning targeted towards those who do not understand and are hence averse to surgical measures of family planning," Kiran Regmi, director of the Family Health Division under the Department of Health Services. He said family planning awareness is increasing in Nepal.

The government says radio is the most popular way to transmit family planning messages in rural areas, but women may be too shy and embarrassed to go to the local health post to obtain contraceptives, even if they do learned about them on the radio. Mrs. Chapang's husband told her that showing her private parts to others was shameful.

But then Kiran Gautam, assistant inspector general of the police, heard Chepang's story on the radio and offered to pay for the operation. She said: "Seeing a woman, who is barely 50, in such a state and knowing how she was compelled to lead this life of pain, I realized that the status of women in Nepal is still very lamentable."

Mrs. Chepang's uterus was surgically removed last year and she now promotes family planning and advised her daughter-in-law "not to have more than two children." doclink

The Most Surprising Demographic Crisis; China's Population

May 06, 2011, Economist

Although China had an excessively coercive one-child policy, there has also often been a grudging acknowledgment that China needed to do something to keep its vast numbers in check.

Now new census figures show that China is suffering from too low a birth rate. They show a total population for mainland China of 1.34 billion and an average annual population growth rate down to 0.57%, half the rate of 1.07% in the previous decade. The the total fertility rate may now be just 1.4, far below the "replacement rate" of 2.1.

In addition the population is aging, with people above the age of 60 numbering 13.3% of the total, up from 10.3% in 2000. Those under the age of 14 declined from 23% to 17%. There will be fewer working young who must support their elderly kin, and government-run pension and health-care systems will be overburdened.

Chinese officials do not dispute that the one-child policy has played a role in gender imbalance, due to male preference, with a higher ratio than usual of boy babies to girl babies. Today there will not be enough brides for almost a fifth of today's baby boys.

Academic Wang Feng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Centre for Public Policy, argues that China's demographic pattern had already changed dramatically by the time the one-child policy began in 1980. The total fertility rate had been 5.8 in 1950, he notes, and had declined sharply to 2.3 by 1980, just above replacement level. Mr Wang figures better health care and sharp drops in high infant-mortality rates helped lower fertility. Countries that simply improved access to contraceptives - Thailand and Indonesia, for instance - did as much to reduce fertility as China, with its draconian policies. Taiwan, which the government in Beijing regards as an integral part of China, cut its fertility rate as much as China without population controls.

The government insists that the one child policy averted 400 million births.

It is possible that the policy may not have done much to push fertility down at first, it might be keeping it low now. Mr Wang argues that current rates are below replacement levels and are unsustainable. It is time to switch to a two-child policy. Few families in China would choose to have more than two.

President Hu Jintao hinted at a change. China would maintain a low birth rate, he said. But it would also "stick to and improve" its current family-planning policy. doclink

Karen Gaia says: When China started its one-child policy, it didn't know about voluntary family planning. China is just barely able to feed its population now, and desertifying much of its cropland in the process, and it's population is still growing. Whenever a country has a baby boom, it will have an aging population when the babies become seniors. This is also happening in the U.S. Unfortunately, the cruel truth is: having enough food becomes more important than taking care of seniors.

China Faces Challenges in Grain Production Despite Bumper Summer Harvest

May 05, 2011, Xinhua

Although China is likely to see a rise in summer grain output this year, it still faces challenges in grain production, Ma Xiaohe, deputy head of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning body, said recently.

With continued rising prices of producer goods, farmers' profit margins have been squeezed and dampened their enthusiasm for production. Labor costs have also risen meaning that farmers may abandon grain production to look for other jobs to earn more money.

The loss of arable land due to urbanization and the country's antiquated agricultural infrastructure also threaten grain security.

Ma said the government should increase financial support for agricultural production and take more measures, such as developing a commodity futures market, to ensure grain security. doclink

National Geographic Magazine: Bangladesh, The Coming Storm

May 2011, National Geographic Magazine

Home to 164 million, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated nations on Earth. By 2050, its population could reach 220 million, and meanwhile the sea is expected to rise to a point where millions of people will be displaced, forcing Bangladeshis to crowd even closer together or else flee the country as climate refugees.

Already on the Bay of Bengal they've seen sea levels rise, destructive river flooding, salinity infect their coastal aquifers, and more and more intense cyclones battering their coast, due to disruptions in the global climate. People fleeing river flooding in the north and cyclones in the south arrive in the capital Dhaka to live in slums or in parks or along the streets. Dhaka is already struggling to provide services and infrastructure.

But through all of the catastrophes Bangladesh has faced: war, famine, disease, killer cyclones, massive floods, coups and assassinations, poverty and deprivation - the people of Bangladesh have shown amazing resilience.

Bangladesh is home to BRAC, a nonprofit which provides basic health care and other services with an army of field-workers. Bangladesh also produced the global micro-finance movement started by Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus.

In addition, despite its poverty, illiteracy, and lack of economic development, Bangladesh developed a successful family-planning program that has lowered its fertility rate from 6.6 children per woman in the 1970s to the current 2.4. Part of the success of the program has been due to immunizing children against childhood diseases. The men, previously resistant to family planning, then realized they wouldn't need to have a bunch of babies just so a few would survive, and they liked the idea of fewer mouths to feed. Infant mortality dropped dramatically between 1990 and 2008.

BRAC and other NGOs have been working at finding new ways for people to make a go of it in their villages instead of moving to Dhaka. For example, they have found that the char (changing islands) dwellers have a way of life that adapts to the changing floodplains, providing a resilient way of life. Bangladesh has developed more salt-resistant strains of rice and built dikes to keep low-lying farms from being flooded with seawater, doubling its production of rice since the early 1970s.

Recently floating schools, hospitals, and libraries have been set up to function through the flooding. And people have found that they can raise shrimps or crabs instead of rice in the ponds and growing my vegetables on the embankments.

But none of these adaptations will be enough. Even at its sharply reduced rate of growth, Bangladesh's population will continue to expand-to perhaps more than 250 million by the turn of the next century.

Millions of Bangladeshis are already working abroad. India is building a 2,500-mile security fence along its border with Bangladesh to stop mass immigration. Some people believe that Bangladesh should train professionals to make them desirable as immigrants to other countries, hoping to reduce Bangladesh's population by 8 to 20 million people. doclink

Water Wars? Thirsty, Energy-Short China Stirs Fear

April 16, 2011, World Weather Post

Inhabitants along major rivers originating in China, the Brahmaputra and the Mekong, for example, blame China for the sudden flooding that took out homes, possessions and livestock, and the far-below-normal river levels.

The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China's accelerating program of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, and divert vital water supplies.

Almost 20 dams have been built or are under construction the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, while 40, more or less, are planned or proposed.

China is not the only one disrupting the region's water flows but China's vast thirst for power and water, its control over the sources of the rivers and its ever-growing political clout make it a singular target of criticism and suspicion. China could face the wrath of 1.8 billion people, from Pakistan to Vietnam, served by those eight Tibetan rivers.

Only China, along with Turkey, has refused to sign a key 1997 U.N. convention on transnational rivers. And China gave no notice when it began building three dams on the Mekong — the first completed in 1993 — or the $1.2 billion Zangmu dam, the first on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra which was started last November.

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, warned: "Since millions of Indians use water coming from the Himalayan glaciers… I think you (India) should express more serious concern. This is nothing to do with politics, just everybody's interests, including Chinese people."

Beijing said that the bulk of water from the Tibetan rivers springs from downstream tributaries, with only 13-16% originating in China, and that the dams can benefit their neighbors, easing droughts and floods by regulating flow, and that hydroelectric power reduces China's carbon footprint.

For some of China's neighbors have a host of other dams built or planned for downstream countries and feel they may look hypocritical if they criticize China too loudly.

But at the grass roots, and among activists and even some government technocrats, criticism is expressed more readily.

Beijing is signaling that it will relaunch mega-projects after a break of several years in efforts to meet skyrocketing demands for energy and water, reduce dependence on coal and lift some 300 million people out of poverty.

"There is no alternative to dams in sight in China," says Ed Grumbine, an American author on Chinese dams. China failed to meet its hydroelectric targets and is now playing catch-up in its 2011-2015 plan while striving to get 15% of energy needs from non-fossil sources, mainly hydroelectric and nuclear.

Because the Himalayan glaciers are melting due to global warming, India's Strategic Foresight Group last year estimated that in the coming 20 years India, China, Nepal and Bangladesh will face a depletion of almost 275 billion cubic meters of annual renewable water.

Some analysts believe China will divert water from Tibet to its dry eastern provinces, possibly rerouting the Brahmaputra away from India. doclink

Kerala: a State in India with a Difference

April 11, 2011, Population Reference Bureau

by Carl Haub

Kerala, a narrow strip of territory along India's southwest coast, has long been one of India's most educated and progressive States. Its total fertility rate (TFR) is only 1.7 children per woman, a distinction it shares with its neighbor Tamil Nadu and a TFR lower than the U.S. and many European countries.

The state has a population of 33.4 million, and has grown by only 1.5 million since the 2001 Census. Kerala labor unions, unusual in India, largely due to the ruling Communist Party of India. As a result, few companies wish to locate there so many workers opt to leave to work in the Gulf and send remittances home. doclink

In Cambodia, Women Fear Death at Childbirth

April 02, 2011, InterPress Service

In Cambodia, home to 14 million people, giving birth is costly, risky and not safe for the mothers and the babies, with five women dying every day during childbirth, according to U.N. reports.

The high death toll is due to lack of sufficient midwives, limited health care centres, the cost of health services, and a bias in remote rural areas towards untrained traditional birth attendants.

The local Khmer language has an expression about the dangers of childbirth: 'crossing the river' likens childbirth to "the risk and the danger of crossing a river, a totally uncertain experience." doclink

Philippines: Church Leaders Return to Talks, Agree to Sex Ed

March 31, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

At a high-level palace meeting withwith President Aquino, Church officials led by the Manila Archbishop acknowledged that sex education was necessary for teenagers and even for children who are on the eve of puberty aged 11 or 12.

The meeting was part of the continuing dialog with the administration on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill that the Church strongly opposes.

Church officials suggested that the sex education being proposed by the RH bill should be accompanied by values formation, and that these should be taught in a graduated manner so as not to overwhelm young children. In typical modules the scientific techniques on reproduction were presented but nothing about values, nothing about discipline, and self-control.

Focus group discussions also need to be conducted on the so-called responsible parenthood bill, which is different from the RH bill that is already in the final stages of approval at the House of Representatives. Mr. Aquino told the priests that there would likely still be disagreements between the government and the Catholic leaders on the responsible parenthood bill.

For instance, the use of condoms, artificial contraceptives. It is the role of the state to provide all means of family planning to citizens, especially to the disadvantaged.

There was agreement at the meeting that condoms aren't abortifacients but the Church leaders still had concerns about them being distributed as contraceptives. doclink

Serious Population Boom Threatens Indonesia

March 28, 2011, Antara

In Indonesia, the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) stated that the uncontrolled population boom could pose a serious threat to Indonesia due to its negative impacts on various sectors and immediate efforts are needed to suppress the population growth rate.

"The uncontrollable population growth can pose a serious threat and the outcome of an Indonesian population census in 2010 has clearly shown the signs of a population explosion."

Indonesia's population has increased 32.7 million in a decade, to 237.6 million, with a growth rate of 1.49%.

Trash, flooding and traffic congestion in residential areas, plus clean water, air and climate change issues are impacts of rapid population growth.

Sugiri, the head of BKKBN said: "You can imagine what will happen if the population continues to grow and approach 500 million." If the population growth rate remains at 1.49% it can be predicted that by 2045 the population reached 450 million.

"At that time the world population is projected to be nine billion people whereas one in every 20 people in the world is Indonesian," he said. "The high number of children will reduce the ability of human capital investment in the family, which will affect education and public health."

A large population with low human resources would destroy the the quality of natural resources, he said. doclink

Pakistan: Overpopulation Burdens Economy and Environment

March 28, 2011, Right Vision News (Pakistan)

At 180 million people, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and fourth in Asia.

The Pew Research Center estimated that by 2030 Pakistan's population is expected to grow to 256 million, with an average annual rate of growth of 2.77%, one of the highest in the world.

Half of Pakistan's people are at risk of food shortages due to a recent surge in world food prices, according to the World Food Program. The price of wheat flour has more than doubled over three years. 24% of the population live below international poverty line. The inflation rate is 14.17% (2010) and the public debt is Rs9.473 trillion. The frequent increase in oil, electricity and gas tariffs has exerted an upward pressure on the general price level.

Overpopulation is putting a strain on the environment, infrastructure, and the country's natural resources. Industrial pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialisation, urbanisation, and land degradation are all worsening problems. Over-exploitation of the country's resources, be it land or water and the industrialisation process has resulted in environmental degradation of resources.

Air pollution kills tens of thousands every year, while many more suffer from breathing ailments, heart disease, lung infections and even cancer. Coal dust, or wood fires and unfiltered diesel engines are the most lethal forms of air pollution.

Millions of people suffer from diseases because of having no access to clean and drinking water. Waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and cholera are the main killers in Sindh province. Millions of people lack access to basic sanitation facilities which include clean sewerage services, toilets and wash basin.

The River Indus is being polluted from millions of litres of sewage, industrial and agricultural wastes. Heavy loads of biological and chemical pollutants usually enter the River Indus, to be consumed in some manner by the downstream user.

Sadly, our dangerously high rate of population growth is unaccompanied by complementary levels of economic expansion. One of the greatest problems of Pakistan is that many of them raise too many children without adequate income and plans on how to cater for them. Babies are now being abandoned at an alarming rate. This has proved that families should cut their coat according to their size.

The need of the hour is to intensify the family planning programme in the country. Pakistan should not wait till the population poses a greater danger like in China and India, before they act.

The ulema play a motivating role and change the social attitudes of the people towards gender equality and family size. And the government will have to improve the contraceptive delivery services in the country. doclink

Get Men in the Delivery Room, Say Bangladesh's First Midwives

March 21, 2011, Guardian (London)

One out of 500 women die in childbirth in Bangladesh. Even though there is no law forbidding men to enter the delivery room, father's mother or another senior female member of the family provides the support, not fathers - an attitude that needs to change, say the country's first midwives.

Bangladesh, which is still heavily reliant on community skilled birth attendants, who lack the skill and the authority to perform more complicated deliveries, has started training midwives, who say "Men need to be involved in the labour process if we are to reduce maternal mortality."

"If could see firsthand the complications of childbirth, they would be more likely to send their pregnant wives to proper medical facilities and less likely to insist on early childbirth after marriage." 75% of deliveries take place at home, and the average age of women having their first child is just 16 years, according to the UN. doclink

Even Age Isn't on Japan's Side

March 18, 2011, The Financial Express (India)

Japan was quick to recover from previous disasters: the Kobe earthquake in 1995 as well as from the World War II (1939-1945) due to rapid improvement in productivity aided by technological advances and supported by a relatively younger, well-educated and hard-working population. A period of rapid population explosion, especially in the working age group, supported growth dynamics. In 1960, the Japanese economy was 1.6 times smaller than the UK and 12 times smaller than the US. By 1970, when Japan had a dependency ratio as low as 45, the economy had grown past the size of almost all European economies and contributed 7% of world GDP.

Now, with the uncertainty on the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake, tsunami and escalating nuclear crisis, just when the economy was beginning to recover from the recession of the last two years, Japan no longer enjoys the demographic dividend of a young population. Its shrinking workforce and rapidly ageing population could constrain a speedy recovery from the current calamity.

Japan's economic growth rate stood at 3.9% for 1980 - 1989 and reduced thereafter, stagnating at 2%. From 2000 onwards the working age force started shrinking, and played a vital role in lowering growth the growth rate to 1.6% in 1990-2000s. Even total population has begun to fall since 2007 and by 2015, Japanese working population would be close to what it was in 1995.

About 31% of Japan's population is 60 years or over, as compared to a mere 9% (8 million) in 1960. The working age population, which rose to 80 million in 1995 from 56 million in 1960 has fallen to 72 million in 2010. By 2015, this figure is estimated to fall to 68 million. The overall dependency ratio (ratio of number of individuals aged below 15 and above 60 divided by the number of individuals aged 15 to 59), which reduced to 57% in 1995 from 64% in 1960, has risen to 76% in 2010 and is estimated to increase to 83% in 2015.

With a marked decrease the in productive population, the contribution of labour input to economic growth could subside. In addition, if the savings rate in the country starts to fall with declining wage earners and an increasing percentage of aged population, investment and hence contribution of capital input to growth could wane, thereby affecting long-term growth potential. Also, as population size decreases, a prolonged period of stagnation could return. A smaller workforce will also contribute less to the country's tax collections, as an ageing population pressurises on the fiscal front.

Japan's economic recovery also rests on the restoration of power supply. The earthquake and tsunami have severely affected the country's nuclear power generation capacity. For a nation with around 25% dependency on this form of energy, the restoration of its nuclear power stations and subsequent recovery of electricity is crucial to get the economy back on its feet.

The next few years will test Japan's resilience in terms of raising productivity, pushing consumption and investment demand, and ultimately raising the country's growth potential. In contrast, the burden of an ageing population on social security provision and fiscal liabilities remain high. The Japanese government has limited choices to address this widening gap-either expand the labour force or improve labour productivity, none of which can be immediately addressed.

Once the restoration activity begins, the labour force may need to be expanded. This challenge may result in the reform of Japan's immigration policy, allowing more foreign labour into the country to help reconstruct the nation. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Japan is already unsustainable, importing about 60% of its food. Increasing the population would mean Japan would have to import even more food and increase its energy capacity above pre-earthquake levels.

Bangladesh's Census

March 18, 2011, Economist

Bangladesh is a country the size of the American state of Iowa, and its population, at over 150 million, is bigger than Russia's. Its cities are growing twice as fast as its villages; and the slums twice as fast as the cities. Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated large country, and its capital, Dhaka, is the fastest-growing city in the world. Projections indicate there will be another 90 million mouths to feed before the population stabilizes, perhaps by 2050.

Bangladesh has started its fifth population census since independence. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has put the population at 164 million. doclink

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