Population, environment and sustainable development

Abeykoon, A.T.

Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences 16(1-2): 57-64


ISSN/ISBN: 0258-9710
PMID: 12319538
Document Number: 643793
The present population of Sri Lanka (17.7 million) is sufficient to create concern about the use, limitations, and waste of natural resources. Between 1871 and 1946, the population grew at an average rate of 1.4% annually, with high fertility and mortality. The population doubled between 1946 and 1981, and mortality declined. Between 1971 and 1991, the rate of growth declined due to a decrease in fertility and an increase in emigration. With a growth rate of 1.4%, the population will again double to 35 million by 2040. Technological improvements in Sri Lanka have led to an eight-fold increase in metric tons of rice production, but the growth in population has caused a deficiency in output so that basic per capita caloric requirements are not being met. Increased productivity has almost depleted the area available for cultivation, and the use of fertilizers to increase yields has environmental drawbacks. The high fertility of the 1970s contributed to increased labor force participation rates of 2.2%, which resulted in more people joining the labor force than leaving. Thus, the employment market has been unable to absorb the unemployed or potential new workers. Growth of the employment market may also conflict with environmental protection, as exemplified by the mining of the coral reef on the southwestern coast. The conversion of forests to agriculture resulted in forest losses of about 42,000 hectares per year during 1956-83. Deforestation is also occurring in the high forests due to increased pressure for fuelwood. In the wet zone, the use of forests for fuelwood is declining, but rubber wood is being harvested for industrial production. In order to slow population growth to replacement levels by the year 2000 (with a total population of 25 million), contraceptive prevalence must be increased to 72% at a cost of about $25 million.

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