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Fast-growing populations leading Africa to disaster

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-11-01 00:16:07.0

The Times Editorial: Accurately pinpointing the arrival of the globe's seven-billionth citizen is an impossible task - the world's population is accelerating at such a rate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each day.

So, in marking the arrival of the fragile planet's seven-billionth occupant, the UN held a string of festivities around the world yesterday, resulting in virtually every country heralding the arrival of its own Baby No7billion.

Though the individual births were joyfully and publicly celebrated, the stark reality is that our exponential population growth is rapidly outstripping the planet's ability to sustain life.

Scenario planners have long warned that future wars will be fought over increasingly scarce resources such as water and basic foods - let alone commodities such as oil and metals.

According to demographers, the world's population reached a billion only in 1804 and took 123 years to double.

But it was in the 20th century that humankind began to multiply frighteningly- the world's population rocketed to 3billion in 1959, 4billion in 1974, 5billion in 1987 and 6billion in 1998.

Depending on factors such as life expectancy, access to birth control and infant mortality, the global population should reach 8billion by 2025 and 10billion in 2083.

Though the rate of South Africa's population growth is slowing, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa will double or treble over the next 40 years, according to the recently released UN Population Fund's ''State of World Population'' report.

The report contains a grim warning: if fertility rates remained unchanged in coming decades, Africa's population will reach 3billion by 2050 and 15billion by 2100.

On a continent wracked by endemic poverty and social inequality, not to mention periodic famine and conflict, this would be a disaster in the making.

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