One Of Major Challenges Confronting Pakistan Is, Overpopulation

Alongside climate change, overpopulation was being considered as one of the major challenges to developing countries including Pakistan.

One Of Major Challenges Confronting Pakistan Is, Overpopulation

Alongside climate change, overpopulation was being considered as one of the major challenges to developing countries including Pakistan, which were posing serious threats to food security, forests and agriculture productions in the wake of climate change’s susceptibilities.

UN World Population Report 2022 has revealed that the world’s population was fast growing and was likely to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Like other world countries, Pakistan was also confronted with the monster challenge of overpopulation having around 243 million people with 1.91 percent annual growth rate in 2021. Being the fifth most populous country and second largest population in the Muslims world after Indonesia, Pakistan’s increasing population was exerting tremendous pressures on agriculture, forests, biodiversity and food services in the wake of climate change challenges. Food security issues would likely to increase in the country in next few years after recent devastating floods that caused an estimated $40 billion economic and agriculture losses in Pakistan.

“Overpopulation has been emerged as big social issue that not only poses enormous challenges to food security but also causes economic imbalances, poverty, encourages corruption and undermined merits and development,” said Dr Muhammad Mumtaz Malik, former Chief Conservator of Wildlife told while talking to APP. Besides agriculture and food security, he said forests and wildlife resources in lower alpine areas in northern KP and Gilgit Balistan was under tremendous pressure due to population explosion.

Besides national animal of Markhor, Ibex, Snow Leopards, he said that green gold including Dodara and pine forests in higher mountainous areas were also under pressure. “We need special policies to encourage cash value crops and growing trees species, which were cost and time-efficient to meet people’s growing food demands especially of edible oil.” Having only 20 percent domestic production of total requirement, the country spends approximately US$ 4 billion annually on import of edible oil to meet the pressing demand of its around 243 million population. “Pakistan’s annual requirement of edible oil is about five million tons (MT) with approximately 16kg per capita use and most of its chunk is imported from Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Dr Ehsan Khan, Director Edible Oil Productivity Institute. He said over 4.4 million hectares fertile land was suitable for cultivation of olive, sunflower, soybean, corn, canola and other oils in Pakistan.

In 2006, edible oil’s import bill was only US$ 615 million that jumped to US$ 3.8 billion in 2022 with the country presently producing around six MT. If edible oil prices increase by five percent annually, the country’s imports would further jump and in this situation, sunflower, olive, canola and other products would go beyond common man’s reach. He said Spain was producing about 45 percent of world’s total edible oil by utilizing 2.6 million hectare land while Pakistan despite having vast tracts of fertile land, was importing around 80 percent of the required commodity that was insufficient for the growing country’s population.

About 100,000 and 300,000 hectare land in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan was now being used for sunflower and canola cultivation respectively. ‘Enhancement of Productivity of Oil Seeds’ project was launched in 2019-20 to promote edible oil farming. Alike, first olive promotion project worth Rs 3.82 billion funded by the Government of Italy was launched on June 1, 2012 to cultivate oil seeds on over 1,500 hectare land to people’s growing edible oil needs. The project was handed over to Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) on February 12, 2012 and completed on June 30, 2015, he added. To capitalize on this project, the Pakistani government launched ‘Promotion of Olive Trees Cultivation on Commercial Scale (POTCCS)’ project worth Rs 3.2 billion in 2015 for increasing production of edible oil. Dr Abdul Rauf Khan, Director General, Agriculture Extension KP said that overpopulation was posing serious threats to food security and agriculture productivities and we need to promote edible oil and rice farming besides increasing wheat cultivation areas.

The sunflower was a cost-efficient crop with three months tenure, and that farmers can easily earn Rs 200,000 to Rs 250,000 from one acre sunflower as compared to Rs 130,000 to Rs 150,000 from one acre olive. A four-year ‘Edible Oil Seeds’ PSDP project has also been launched across the country with 50% shared financing by Federal and Provincial Governments, he added.

“We have set up eight oil processing and purification plants in different research centers at Bajaur, Peshawar, Lower Dir, Swat and Kohat districts to facilitate edible oil farmers,” he informed. Ahmad Said, the Chief Planning Officer, Agriculture Department KP said that government was promoting olive farming after discovery of around 70 million wild olive plants in merged tribal districts and in Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Karak, Nowshera, Hangu and Chitral. “Over 1.2 million olive plants on 1,300 hectares were planted in the province and each tree produces three kilogram oil,” he said, adding a farmer can earn Rs 450,000 from 1,500 kg olive.

Originally published at Daily Times