The official claim is that the annual population growth rate in Bangladesh is some 1.48 per cent. But this estimate is seriously and reliably contended by other non official estimates which say that the growth rate is at least 3 per cent.
The population growth rate being 3 per cent or above is borne out by the scenes of hordes of children in rural Bangladesh where more than 80 per cent of the people are concentrated despite the spread of urbanization and industrialization. The sea of children in the rural areas would make it apparent to any observers at the actual field levels that population control activities are not going well. The rural areas traditionally showed higher growth rate fuelled by adverse social practices, ignorance and other cultural barriers. The urban population even including the poor and migrant ones from rural areas, seem to adopt family planning practices almost automatically as a consequence of the uplifting urbanizing experience. The same do not apply in the tradition-bound rural areas where only determined and regular activities for population control can bring about positive changes in the outlook and practices for planned families. Thus, population control activities are very worryingly not taking a hold where the greatest numbers of the potentially reproductive population are located.
The official population programmes in the village areas are seen to be shot through with corruption, inefficiency, lethargy and all other ills. Family visitors under the programme hardly do their job; they may make some casual visits at long intervals without doing their work with motivation and sincerity. Contraceptives supplied to them for reaching in rural homes free of costs or at nominal costs, are either not distributed, thus, or offered for sale only at market prices. Understandably, this discourages their potential users. Voluntary sterilization programmes are very shabbily conducted. In most cases, there are no publicities of the same and people remain unaware of what things are on offer for adopting sterility or permanent birth control. The cash awards for conducting vasectomy on men and women are found misappropriated in many cases by the authorities themselves while on paper they maintain fake records of persons who were operated as well as their getting of the awards.
Clearly, the officially run population control programme needs to be deep cleansed against graft, sloth and lack of zeal on the part of those who conduct it. The present government is doing good work in many areas . It can make a very big contribution towards the longer term economic security of the country by revamping the official population control programmes.
The present population of the country is estimated to be around 17 crores. However, even if the official version of the annual population growth rate at 1,48 per cent is accepted, the population could be an enormous one at over 27 crore about half a century from now. But land space and natural resources respectively would not be growing or growing equally as fast. How then to take care of such a vast population in about only 55,000 square miles of territory with its limited resources ? This is indeed is posing as a very big question .Bangladesh is already the seventh biggest country in the world in terms of population. But other countries with big population such as USA or Brazil have almost continent size territories and natural resources to take care of their current population whereas Bangladesh is burdened with an uniquely vast population with this population to turn immensely bigger in the future having very little physical space to accommodate it. For instance, the population of the USA is some 294 million. Bangladesh has a population of 139 million which is roughly the size of half of the population of the USA. But Bangladesh, in contrast, has about only one-fiftieth of USA’s land space for its huge population and therein lies the danger of its continuing population growth at the current rate.
The population growth rate in Bangladesh will not be brought down to zero level like in the Scandinavian countries. There would be encountered strong social and cultural barriers against such initiatives. But it can be tried to effectively bring it well below one per cent in a decade from now if the same goal is earnestly pursued. This decrease in growth will mean a manageable population by the middle of the present century.
Bangladesh is already too overpopulated by any assessment or definition. Already, the existing size of the population and its growth have created crisis like situations in sectors of housing, employment, health, etc. The crises are going to be deeper in the near future and could shatter whatever socio-political and economic stability the country has at present. Clearly, the population issue is building up into a worst case scenario of all round insecurities for Bangladesh. But where are the decisive actions or plans of its leaders that they intend to protect the country from the population bomb that is ticking away ?
Bangladesh faces great insecurity from environmental degradation which has two sides. The size of the population and its growth rate pose a serious threat to its environment because humans everywhere are the worst polluters. Cutting down of trees, destroying natural eco systems, polluting activities affecting land, air and water, are seen more in a densely populated country and not in a country where population size is reasonable compared to natural endowments. Externally, Bangladesh has been listed as one of the few countries to be hardest hit by the on going greenhouse effects that could cause severe weather conditions for Bangladesh and inundate a large section of its territories from sea level rise. Both developments pose very serious threats to the physical existence of Bangladesh or to habitable conditions in it. The leaders of this country should have been up and doing long ago doing with a sense of great urgency whatever could be done to put a brake on these developments or to try and reverse the same. Governments here should have gone all out to control population growth internally and externally to mobilise a campaign against earth warming. But on both of these areas, the leaders of this country seem to behave as if there is not even the signs of a problem.