UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

Population Development & Environment (E/CONF.84/PC/4)

               Distr. GENERAL


               28 August 1992                                     

               ORIGINAL:  ENGLISH





 Second session

 16-19 August 1993

 Item 3 of the provisional agenda


                          ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT

                   Recommendations of the Expert Group Meeting

                   on Population, Environment and Development

                Report of the Secretary-General of the Conference


     In response to Economic and Social Council resolution 1991/93, the

 Expert Group on Population, Environment and Development was convened at New

 York from 20 to 24 January 1992 as part of the preparations for the

 International Conference on Population and Development to be held in 1994. 

 The findings of the Expert Group are presented in this report for

 consideration in the context of the review and appraisal of the World

 Population Plan of Action by the Population Commission acting as the

 Preparatory Committee for the Conference.  The Expert Group appraised current

 trends in population and environment, focusing on their implications for

 sustainable development.  The discussions concentrated on those areas where

 population growth and distribution have adverse impacts on the availability

 and use of key natural resources, such as freshwater, soils and forests, and

 on interactions of demographic factors, consumption and production patterns

 and global issues of increasing international concern, such as climate change

 and loss of biological diversity.  The deliberations had as an essential

 perspective the goals of the World Population Plan of Action and specific

 policy measures that would promote the achievement of those goals.  The

 recommendations deal with integration of technological, economic,

 environmental and population policy- making and planning; research, education

 and awareness creation; and 

 international cooperation.


 92-41440  4139a (E)   201092                                             





 INTRODUCTION ...............................................      1 - 5    3

     A.  Background ........................................       1 - 3    3

     B.  Opening statements ................................       4 - 5    4

  I.  SUMMARY OF THE PAPERS AND DISCUSSION ..................     6 - 68      4

     A.  The population dimension ..........................      6 - 16    4

     B.  Interaction of population and resources ...........     17 - 35    6

     C.  Environmental degradation .........................     36 - 68   10

 II. RECOMMENDATIONS ...................................................   16

     A.  Preamble ......................................................   16

     B.  Recommendations ...............................................   17


                                 A.  Background

 1.  The Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 1991/93 of

 26/July/1991, decided to convene an International Conference on Population

 and Development under the auspices of the United Nations to be devoted to the

 discussion of the overall theme of population, sustained economic growth and

 sustainable development with the aim of contributing to the review and

 appraisal of the World Population Plan of Action/1/ and to its further

 implementation.  The Council authorized the Secretary-General of the

 Conference to convene six expert group meetings as part of the preparatory


 2.  Pursuant to that resolution the Secretary-General of the Conference

 convened the Expert Group Meeting on Population, Environment and Development

 from 20 to 24/January/1992.  The Meeting was organized at the United Nations

 Headquarters, New York, by the Population Division of the Department of

 Economic and Social Development of the United Nations Secretariat in

 consultation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  The

 participants, representing different geographical regions, scientific

 disciplines and institutions, included 16 experts invited by the Secretary-

 General in their personal capacities, representatives of the five regional

 commissions, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO),

 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the

 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Food

 and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International

 Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements

 (UNCHS), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

 (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme;

 representatives of the following governmental organizations:  Ministry of

 State for Population and Environment, Indonesia; Ministry of Planning,

 Morocco; and Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research; and

 representatives of the following non-governmental organizations:  National

 Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Population Council,

 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the National Audubon Society, the

 International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the International

 Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP).  There were two


 3.  As a basis for discussion, the 15 experts had prepared papers on the

 main agenda items in order to provide a framework for discussion.  The

 Department of Economic and Social Development had prepared a background

 document for the meeting, entitled "Population, development and the

 environment:  an overview".  Discussion notes were provided by the Department

 of Economic and Social Development, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE),

 the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the

 Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic and Social Commission for

 Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), FAO, ILO, UNCHS, WHO, IPPF, the National

 Research Council and the Population Council.

                             B.  Opening statements

 4.  The Meeting was opened by Dr. Nafis Sadik, Secretary-General of the

 International Conference on Population and Development.  She stressed the

 importance of population issues in achieving sustainable development and said

 that it was particularly appropriate for critical linkages between

 population, environment and development to be examined in light of disturbing

 demographic trends.  Mr. Shunichi Inoue, Deputy Secretary-General of the

 Conference, reviewed the approaches to an environment/population nexus over

 the previous two decades and called for special attention to its policy


 5.  The central task of the Expert Group was to examine demographic,

 socio-economic and environmental trends, their critical linkages, and

 relevant high-priority issues, in particular the triad of rapid population

 growth, increasing environmental degradation and pervasive poverty, and, on

 that basis, to make recommendations for action by Governments and

 intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies which would enhance

 compliance with the World Population Plan of Action and increase its

 effectiveness.  The views expressed by the experts at the meeting were made

 in their personal capacities and did not represent the views of the

 Governments of their countries.


                          A.  The population dimension

 6.  The discussions of the Expert Group were profoundly influenced by an

 awareness that the world population was growing on average by 1.7/per/cent

 per/annum.  By the turn of the century, the current world population of

 5.4/billion people would be 6.25 billion.  The Expert Group noted that the

 momentum of population growth ensured that at least another 3 billion would

 be added to the global total between 1985 and 2025.  Over 90/per/cent of that

 growth was taking place in the developing world, those countries least able

 to cope with the resource and environmental consequences of growing

 populations.  Over the course of the 1990s, the population of the developing

 world would swell by over 900 million, while the population of the

 industrialized countries would grow by a mere 56 million.

 7.  In the early 1980s, it had seemed that the rate of population growth was

 slowing everywhere except in Africa and parts of South Asia.  The world

 population seemed set to stabilize at around 10 billion towards the end of

 the next century.  In 1992, the situation looked less promising, with

 stabilization likely to occur at a level 1.5 billion higher and about half a

 century later.

 8.  Although international migration involved only a small fraction of the

 world's population, it was large in absolute numbers, especially since

 migrants were unevenly distributed among countries.  For some nations,

 international migration was a source of major demographic change and an

 important economic factor.  The 1980s had witnessed the resurgence of

 international migration as a worldwide phenomenon, with widening gaps between

 countries in demographic growth and economic progress.

 9.  In that context the Expert Group considered two development issues. 

 First, the deepening poverty of individuals and nations.  Globally, more than

 1/billion people were living in absolute poverty, and the total international

 debt of developing countries was now $1.2 trillion and growing, although

 declining as a share of gross domestic product (GDP).  Secondly, the social

 sector/- including health, family planning, housing and education/- continued

 to be underemphasized in national and international development programmes. 

 At the national level, developing countries had struggled to keep pace with

 the needs of their populations, which had often doubled in the past 30 years. 

 Yet, demands for health care, education, food security, housing and jobs were

 still increasing, and would continue to increase through the next decade and


 10. The Expert Group noted that the world was in the middle of an urban

 revolution, fuelled in part by massive population shifts from rural to urban

 areas.  Since 1950, the number of people living in cities had more than

 tripled, and in 1990 reached 2.4 billion.  Although the urban population in

 the developed world had nearly doubled, in the developing world it had

 swelled five times, from 286 million to 1,515 million.  In 1950, 29/per/cent

 of the world population had been urbanized.  By the year 2000, over half of

 humanity would live in urban areas.

 11. Although urban populations levelled off in the developed world/- growing

 by only 0.8/per/cent a year, if at all/- they were increasing in the

 developing countries.  The United Nations projections indicated that in the

 year 2000, 77/per/cent of Latin America's population, 41/per/cent of Africa's

 and 35/per/cent of Asia's would be urbanized.

 12. The Expert Group noted that certain cities were reaching gigantic

 proportions.  The rise of the mega-cities fostered the concentration of

 labour and industrial production in a few "primate" cities.  An estimated

 44/per/cent of Mexico's gross domestic product, 52/per/cent of its industrial

 output, and 54/per/cent of its services were concentrated in Mexico City. 

 Similarly, more than 60/per/cent of all manufacturing output in the

 Philippines originated in Manila. 

 13. Given the rapid and largely unplanned urbanization, the Expert Group was

 particularly concerned that in the developing world, the ability of

 municipalities to keep ahead of the demand for infrastructure and services

 had been outpaced.  In many cities of developing countries, housing, roads,

 health care, educational facilities and the provision of safe drinking water

 and sanitation had not kept up with the rising tide of urban dwellers.

 14. The Expert Group paid attention to the large pool of unemployed,

 underemployed, unskilled and semi-skilled labour which was one consequence of

 the swelling urban population.  Many of those marginal people ended up in

 slums and squatter settlements, unemployed, uneducated, undernourished and

 chronically sick.  In some cities, such as Lagos, Delhi, Dar-es-Salaam,

 Cairo, Bombay and Addis Ababa, more than 50/per/cent of the people lived in

 substandard housing in slums, shanty-towns and squatter settlements.  Tens of

 thousands more ended their days on the streets where they found shelter in

 make-shift shacks fashioned from discarded wood, canvas and cardboard.

 15. Furthermore, studies had shown that many of those poor people became

 permanently marginalized, caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty.  Surveys

 of squatter settlements revealed that many of the residents had lived in them

 for a decade or more.  There was no upward or outward mobility.  They began

 poor and ended poor, living their lives on the margins of survival.  It

 should be recognized that the same situation often prevailed in rural areas

 where most of the world's poor were concentrated.

 16. Another result of rapid urbanization was the alarming loss of prime

 agricultural land.  The urban area of Delhi, for example, had grown nearly

 13-fold since 1900, eating into surrounding cropland and absorbing more than

 100 villages.  According to FAO estimates, about 1.4 billion hectares of

 arable land would have been taken out of agricultural production because of

 urban sprawl between 1980 and the turn of the century.

                   B.  Interaction of population and resources

 17. Although population growth was but one of many factors that undermined

 the environmental resource base upon which sustainable development ultimately

 depended, it was an exceptionally significant factor.  Indeed, in many

 countries there was a pronounced imbalance between the growth of population,

 on the one hand, and the natural resource base needed to support it, on the


               1.  Impact of population growth on the environment

 18. The Expert Group noted that although there was wide acceptance of the

 view that various links exist between economic, environmental and population

 phenomena, the nature and strength of the reciprocal impacts were subject to

 a heated debate.  Whereas some studies asserted that population growth was

 not an obstacle to economic growth, others supported the conclusion that

 population growth had a strong negative impact on the environment.  Part of

 the controversy could be resolved by introducing a feedback from environment

 to economic performance.  As population growth added to the number of

 consumers who put additional claims to natural resources and produced

 pollution, it damaged the environment; conversely, deterioration of the

 environment damaged the economy.  Unfortunately, in the formulation of

 policy, environmental impacts were not properly accounted for in economic


 19. That approach was consistent with the notion of sustainable development,

  as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the

 ability of future generations to meet their own needs"./2/  Moreover, it was

 compatible with attempts to put into operation the concept of sustainable

 development.  If income was defined as the maximum amount that a person or

 community could consume over some time period and still be as well off at the

 end of the period as at the beginning, sustainability became either weak or

 strong, depending on whether man-made capital was assumed to be perfectly

 substitutable for natural capital or complementary to it; in the latter case,

 which encompassed the predominant views of biologists, the goal was to

 maintain man-made and natural capital intact separately.

 20. The Expert Group was aware that there were several linkages at work

 between population and the environment.  The interaction of population,

 consumption (or production) patterns and technology in producing

 environmental impacts or pollution was often encapsulated in the equation:

     I = PAT

 where I is environmental impact, P is population, A is per capita

 consumption, and T is a measure of environmental damage done by technology

 employed in supplying each unit of consumption.  In fact, the equation may be

 interpreted as conveying the notion that consumption and production patterns

 were proximate factors of environmental deterioration, channelling the

 underlying impacts of ultimate causes, which were the number of consumers (or

 producers) and their effective demand for goods and services.

 21. The equation illustrates why developing countries with large populations

 but limited economic advancement could have a vast impact on the environment. 

 Likewise, it makes clear that developed countries had an impact on population

 since the A and T multipliers for each person were exceptionally large.

 22. During the discussion some objections were raised to the I/=/PAT

 equation, suggesting that the real relationships between population and the

 environment were more complex than the postulated linear interactions.  For

 instance, the equation did not take into account the possible detrimental

 impact of population growth on per capita consumption.  Furthermore,

 institutions were a key variable in determining whether societies would be

 successful in equilibrating population levels with the availability of

 resources and economic growth while ensuring sound environmental management. 

 Reciprocity of obligations in the case of populations-induced environmental

 degradation was contingent upon cultural nuances of social expectations. 

 Similarly, whereas technologies differed in their capacity for environmental

 damage and repair, social attitudes and systems helped to determine the costs

 of environmental preservation or degradation and hence the type of technology


 23. A technology-driven explanation was offered to show how population,

 coupled to the level of a given society's technological development,

 interacted to produce economic development and/or environmental degradation. 

  By that analysis, development and degradation were linked in relativefashion.  The level of development was determined to a large extent by the

 level of technology, which in turn affected lifestyles and consumption

 patterns and determined environmental impact.  In that case, population was

 seen as a peripheral factor, not a central part of the equation and

 technology became the more important multiplier.  That analysis had been

 applied largely to the developed world, where most countries had already gone

 through the demographic transition to low rates of population growth.

 24. Another way to look at the interrelationships between population and

 natural resources was discussed.  According to that approach, the main

 variables/- number of people, growth rates, dependence on natural resources,

 consumption levels and technological capacities/- had an impact on the

 resilience of natural resources, which in turn determined the remaining

 quantity and quality of natural resource stocks.  In global terms, the rate

 of natural resource consumption depended of course on the first five

 variables.  The resilience of nature/- or lack thereof/- would determine what

 the final results are of human impact on natural resources.

 25. The Expert Group noted that there was, however, an intermediate

 complication, because the physical availability of natural resources did not

 necessarily guarantee that those resources were entirely, or even partially

 accessible, or that they were equally accessible to all population groups. 

 Some hydrologists, for example, had repeatedly drawn attention to the

 difference between water availability and accessibility.  That distinction

 was fundamental for the understanding of people's interactions with nature. 

 It obliged us to look beyond natural resources as purely biological and

 geo-physical factors and to analyse technological, managerial, economic and

 sociological factors.

                              2.  Carrying capacity

 26. The Expert Group paid particular attention to the concept of carrying

 capacity, or more appropriately, population-supporting capacity.  The

 carrying capacity could be defined as the number of people that the planet

 could support without irreversibly reducing its capacity to support people in

 the future.  While that was a global-level definition, it applied at the

 national level too, albeit with many qualifications as concerned

 international terms of trade, investment etc.  In its wide sense it was a

 highly complex concept, reflecting food and energy supplies, ecosystem

 services, human capital, people's lifestyles, cultural constraints, social

 institutions, political structures, and above all, public policies among many

 other factors, all of which interacted with each other.

 27. It was noted that two points were particularly important/- first, that

 carrying capacity was ultimately determined by the component that yielded the

 lowest carrying capacity; and secondly, that human communities must learn to

 live off the "interest" of environmental resources rather than off their


 28. The Expert Group was concerned about the evidence that human numbers

 with their consumption of resources and the technologies deployed to supply

 that consumption, were often already exceeding carrying-capacity.  In many

 parts of the world, the three principal and essential stocks of renewable

 resources/- forests, grasslands and fisheries/- were being utilized faster

 than their rate of natural replenishment.

 29. Preliminary research had shed some new light on the degree to which a

 given country was dependent on natural resources for development.  Three

 variables had been shown to be important indicators:

     (a)  The importance of agricultural production to gross domestic


     (b) GNP per capita (using the World Bank classification of low-, lower

 middle-, upper middle- and high-income countries);

     (c)  The level of population growth, assuming that high levels put

 pressures on key resources.

 30. Data analysis showed that in each case there was a strong connection

 between low per capita incomes, high population growth rates and a dependence

 on agricultural production.  Although still preliminary, the analysis tended

 to indicate that where those three factors combined, countries were heavily

 dependent on natural resource stocks to promote economic development.  It

 also indicated that the solutions must be integrated, tackling a number of

 problems simultaneously. 

               3.  Environmental discontinuities and uncertainties

 31. The Expert Group concentrated on the issues of discontinuities and

 uncertainties in current ecological trends.  It was possible for the resource

 base to collapse abruptly.  That could precipitate a downturn in the capacity

 of environmental resources to sustain human communities at current levels of

 well-being.  Furthermore, it would amount to a macrolevel change.  Designated

 by ecologists as a "jump effect" of environmental discontinuity, or a

 threshold effect of irreversible injury, such a change occurred when

 ecosystems absorbed stresses over long periods without much outward sign of

 damage.  Eventually the ecosystem reached a disruption level at which the

 cumulative consequences of stress finally revealed themselves in critical

 proportions.  The effects of acid rain on fresh-water ecosystems and the

 widespread dieback of conifers seen across Europe and eastern North America

 were examples of environmental discontinuities.

 32. Of special concern to the Expert Group was the problem of agricultural

 land shortages which was becoming widespread in many developing countries,

 especially in those where land provided the livelihood for more than

 50/per/cent of the population.  During the 1970s, arable areas were expanding

 at roughly 0.5/per/cent a year.  But during the 1980s the rate dropped to

 only half as much.  Primarily because of rapid population growth and unequal

 distribution, the amount of per capita arable land declined by 1.9/per/cent

 per annum. 

 33. In Costa Rica, where the agricultural frontier closed in the 1980s, for

 the first time in 400 years, people had no ready access to new land.  With an

 annual population growth rate at 2.5/per/cent, their predominantly agrarian

 society was having to adjust to a sudden change from land abundance to land


 34. Another issue of concern was the fuelwood crisis.  Most people in the

 developing world depended on fuelwood and charcoal for their daily energy

 needs.  As long as the number of wood collectors did not exceed the capacity

 of the tree stock to replenish itself through regrowth, the local community

 could exploit the resource indefinitely.  But when the number of collectors

 grew until they exceeded the self-renewing capacity of the trees, perhaps

 exceeding it by only a small amount, quite suddenly a point was reached where

 the tree stock started to decline.  Indeed, fuelwood shortages currently

 affected around 1 billion poor people in the developing countries.

 35. Many environmental changes currently under way had not been experienced

 in the past, and a number of their components could not be fully anticipated

 until they actually occurred, at which time it might be too late to

 counteract them.  Hence, there was a challenging task to choose an

 appropriate long-term strategy when standard short-term solutions such as

 market forces might not be able to provide sufficient insurance against the

 risks that were associated with crossing ecological thresholds (such as

 climate change or depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer).  Moreover,

 critical uncertainties concerned the regional timing and magnitude of

 environmental change, and thus further complicated the assignment of

 strategic priorities.

                          C.  Environmental degradation

 36. Of particular concern were four population factors which had a

 significant impact on resource depletion and environmental quality.  Those

 factors persisted for long periods, although their effects varied from

 country to country.  The first was population size and rate of growth.  The

 second was the population's age structure.  The third factor related to the

 growing incidence of poverty.  And the fourth factor was the concentration of

 populations in critical ecological zones, such as tropical forests and

 coastal zones. 

                          1.  Loss of agricultural land

 37. It was noted that every year around 70,000 square kilometres of farmland

 were abandoned because the soils were too worn out and degraded for crop

 production; another 200,000 square kilometres suffered from reduced


 38. Furthermore, soil erosion, the chief form of land degradation, claimed

 24/billion tons of topsoil a year.  Between 1985 and 2010, soil erosion alone

 could precipitate a 19-29/per/cent decline in food production from rainfed


 39. The problem, as many participants pointed out, was due to several

 factors apart from population growth/- most notably, poverty.  Impoverished

 people could not afford the conservation measures needed to protect soil

 cover.  But population growth and concentration served to induce farmers to

 overuse and even exhaust the soil.  Thus it often happened that agricultural

 yields were expanded to meet population growth's demand in the short term, at

 a cost to soil cover and fertility that eventually led to a decline in

 cropland productivity. 

 40. Overall, land degradation of various sorts was estimated to be causing

 an annual loss of 12 million tons of grain output.  That translated into

 almost half of all the gains in grain output each year.  Not only had the

 1980s seen little expansion of cropland, but there appeared to be less scope

 than formerly for intensification of food production by bringing more land

 under irrigation. 

 41.  Of special concern to the Expert Group was the fact that the current

 problems of land degradation would be compounded by the impact of population

 growth, which would add 1 billion people to the planet every 11 years: 

 900/million over the decade of the 1990s.  Thus the coming decade could see a

 combination of mounting grain deficits, surging grain prices, and spreading

 hunger among ever larger numbers of people.

                     2.  The destruction of tropical forests

 42. The Expert Group recalled the FAO and the World Bank estimations on

 forest destruction.  In 1980, FAO estimated tropical forest loss at around

 11/million hectares a year, an area the size of Austria.  However, more

 recent estimates by FAO, based on satellite imagery, suggested a much higher

 rate of around 17 million hectares a year.  Recent World Bank estimates put

 the figure at between 17/million and 20 million hectares a year.  Such

 estimates suggest a current rate of deforestation in developing countries of

 about 1-1.5/per/cent per year.  The greatest volume of forest lost was in

 Latin America, which/- at 8.4 million hectares/- accounted for about half of

 the world's total.  However, the fastest rate of forest depletion was found

 in Asia. 

 43. There appeared to be three main causes of tropical forest loss: 

 encroachment by landless slash-and-burn cultivators; large-scale logging

 operations; and conversion to grazing land and large plantations.  By far,

 the major overall proximate cause of tropical forest destruction was the

 expansion of agriculture onto new lands, or agricultural "extensification". 

 Of that, small-scale forest farmers were thought to be responsible for well

 over half of all deforestation, largely because logging operations and cattle

 ranches had made it possible for those farmers to penetrate tropical forests

 which otherwise would be virtually inaccessible to them.  The major

 underlying driving forces of cropland expansion into tropical forests were

 rural poverty and population growth.

 44. The general pattern of forest degradation and rising population was

 observed in 15 Asian countries.  Countries with an annual population growth

 rate of 2/per/cent or more had experienced deforestation rates of more than

 2/per/cent per annum over the course of the 1980s (with the exception of Sri

 Lanka).  Although those trends did not establish a causal link, they

 indicated broad patterns of demographic stress across countries with

 different population growth rates.

 45. A more direct measure could be made at the country level, relating the

 increase in migrant populations and rates of forest conversion to

 agriculture.  Two case-studies were presented, for the Philippines and

 Indonesia.  In the Philippines, conversion of forests to croplands began much

 earlier (through government resettlement), while in Indonesia, cropland

 expansion into forest areas began on a large-scale in the mid-1970s.

 46. Migrant populations in forested areas in both countries increased

 rapidly during the period 1980-1985, the period of worldwide economic crisis. 

 In the Philippines, the rate of cropland expansion into forests was over

 7.5/per/cent a year, while the migrant population grew by nearly 4/per/cent a


 47. The causes of migration into forested areas were remarkably similar for

 most countries in Asia.  In the first place, there were increasing numbers of

 people living on an increasingly circumscribed agricultural land base.  In

 addition, competition for arable land worsened because of inequitable land

 distribution.  Most existing croplands were already in the most fertile

 areas, so that the costs of expanding cultivation had increased.

 48. It was noted that the rural labour force continued to expand in most

 developing countries, despite declining population growth rates.  Because

 employment opportunities were often limited in urban centres as well as on

 long-settled croplands, important migration flows were being directed towards

 ecologically fragile frontier zones.

 49. Furthermore, it was observed that population density continued to

 increase in more accessible areas, such as those close to roads and along

 coastlines.  As population densities rose, there was greater pressure to

 intensify cultivation, increase harvests of forest products, and expand

 settlements to remote and steeper locations.  Forest resources were then

 depleted faster than they were replaced, reducing their productivity and

 undermining growth.

 50. There were serious off-site consequences when forests were permanently

 converted to farms.  As shown in the watershed sites studied in the

 Philippines, intensive upland cultivation led to severe flooding and

 siltation of downstream areas.

 51. It was also noted that population movements were induced by

 inappropriate government policies.  Many settlement schemes opened up forests

 to migrants.  Poor enforcement of post-logging conditions encouraged

 migration into logged- over sites.  In addition, many government development

 programmes discriminated against the agricultural sector and reduced its

 growth and labour-absorbing potential.  Although the impact of those policies

 varied by country, the role of population growth and other demographic

 factors remained constant in that they exacerbated the "push" conditions of

 movements into critical environments. 

                            3.  Freshwater resources

 52. The Expert Group noted basically three sets of problems related to

 freshwater.  First, water was becoming increasingly scarce.  Although water

 was a finite resource, population was growing rapidly in many water-short

 countries.  Secondly, water pollution was a growing problem in both developed

 and developing countries.  Degraded water quality affected human health and

 welfare directly, while indirectly contributing to slower rates of

 development.  Thirdly, water-related land degradation threatened the

 sustainable use of resources, especially in the South.  That was a particular

 problem in areas dependent on irrigated agriculture, where salinization,

 waterlogging and alkalization were slashing yields and turning

 once-productive cropland into wasteland.  Furthermore, salts released from

 irrigated soils were now polluting surface waters.

 53. Furthermore, the Expert Group observed basically four types of water

 scarcity:  the first two types were due to hydro-climatic factors; the other

 two, to human activities.  In the first type of scarcity water evaporated

 rapidly before it could recharge aquifers or rivers.  That was characteristic

 of deserts and arid areas and produced a short growing season.  The second

 type was due to large inter-annual fluctuations in areas with limited

 rainfall to begin with.  That resulted in recurrent droughts, with attendant

 loss of soil productivity.  The third type of water scarcity was due to the

 desiccation of the landscape, a result of large-scale deforestation,

 destruction of watershed and overgrazing of grasslands.  Such activities

 stripped away vegetation cover, exposing soils to torrential rains.  Not only

 did massive soil erosion occur, but water ran off before it could recharge

 rivers and aquifers or be captured for other uses (e.g., irrigated

 agriculture).  The fourth type of water scarcity was due principally to two

 factors:  increasing demand because of rapidly growing populations, and/or

 gross inefficiencies of use.

 54. Of special concern to the Expert Group was the fact that water scarcity

 was one of the ultimate threats to sustainable development and livelihood

 security.  In the short-to-medium term, the combination of land degradation

 and intermittent droughts increased the risk for crop failures and famine. 

 In the long term, rapid population growth aggravated the problem of water

 scarcity since there was less water per capita to support human life, improve

 health and food security, and increase market-oriented activities such as

 cash crop and industrial production.

 55. It was noted that water scarcity already affected 88 developing

 countries, with 40/per/cent of the world population.  By the end of the

 decade, all five countries in North Africa and six out of seven in East

 Africa would experience severe water shortages.  All but one, Ethiopia, had

 population growth rates of 2.5-3.8/per/cent per annum.

 56. It was agreed that there was a critical need for Governments to devise

 integrated strategies for managing both water and land resources.  Without a

 broader view of water, one that was not bound by traditional hydrological

 engineering concepts of the North, the water crisis was likely to become

 severe in many areas of the world, presenting a real threat to further

 industrial development and expansion of agriculture.

                        4.  Loss of biological diversity

 57. As tropical forests continued to disappear, so too did a wealth of fauna

 and flora, genetic resources of inestimable value to human welfare.  Science

 had identified only around 1.7 million species of plants and animals, but

 10/million or even 30 million might exist.  Clearing the forest could consign

 several million or more unknown species to oblivion by the turn of the


 58. Although tropical forests contained most of the world's wild species,

 seven "mega-diversity countries" had a disproportionately large share of the

 world's genetic heritage.  Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Zaire, Madagascar,

 Indonesia and Australia, together, contained over 54/per/cent of the earth's

 known species.  From the point of view of conservation, it seemed perfectly

 sensible to select those countries for priority action.

 59. But there was another reason why those countries deserved priority

 attention/- in all but one, population growth exceeded by far the average

 growth rate of the world population for the period 1950-1980.  Furthermore,

 human populations were expected to continue expanding rapidly during the two

 decades from 1980 to 2000.

 60. Although there was no one-to-one relationship in the population/

 environment equation, it must be expected that, while the proportion of the

 world's population in the mega-diversity countries increased, the proportion

 of the world's species found there might decrease.  The number of people

 added in those countries in recent decades plus expected future population

 increases would, if trends continued, inevitably lead to the clearance of

 more forests, degradation of water resources and marginalization of

 over-cultivated land, thereby extinguishing a certain number of species.

 61. Even if the natural resources of the mega-diversity countries could

 eventually accommodate with ease their growing populations, the speed of

 population growth would make it difficult for them to expand the sustainable

 use of natural resources sufficiently and rapidly enough to cater to people's


                               5.  Climate change

 62. The Expert Group was particularly concerned with the climate changes

 caused by emissions of greenhouse gases.  Recent reports of the

 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed the build-up of

 greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a build-up almost certain to result in

 global climate change.  Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas that

 caused half the greenhouse effect, had risen from 2.4 billion tons of carbon

 in 1950 to 6.8/billion in 1985, an average increase of 3.1/per/cent per

 annum.  (The figures were actually underestimations, since they took

 inadequate account of the carbon dioxide releases from the destruction of

 tropical forests.)  During the same period, world population grew, on

 average, by 1.9/per/cent per annum.  The rest of the increase, 1.2/per/cent

 per person per annum on average, was derived from higher per capita

 consumption of goods that involved the production of carbon, growth in energy

 demand, and changes in technology.  According to that reckoning, population

 growth was responsible for almost two thirds of the increase in carbon

 dioxide emissions.

 63. Despite the limitations to that analysis, it was helpful to the Expert

 Group when considering the future outlook.  If carbon dioxide emissions in

 developing countries continued to grow at the rate of the past 40 years, they

 would more than double from the 1985 per capita level of 0.8/tons to 1.7/tons

 by 2025.  By that time, too, their populations were projected to nearly

 double, from 3.7 billion in 1985 to 7.1 billion by 2025.  The population

 increase would produce an additional 5.78 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a

 total to be compared with the present worldwide total of 6.9 billion tons. 

 64. The Expert Group noted that the problem of future population growth and

 rising carbon dioxide emissions could be exemplified by India.  With a

 current per capita income of only $330 per annum, India's electricity

 capacity was 55,000/MW, about twice that of New York State.  Although the

 country possessed meagre coal reserves, it was exploiting them so fast that

 it currently ranked as the world's fourth largest coal burner.  In 1950, its

 coal use was only 33/million tons, but by 1989 it had soared to 191 million

 tons.  Furthermore, the Government had plans to supply electricity to half

 the houses in the country.  That goal alone would require the production of

 an additional 80,000/MW of power.  It was anticipated that that measure,

 together with other development plans, would double India's carbon dioxide


 65. However, such analyses said nothing about the energy savings that could

 be achieved through better efficiencies of scale and by switching from

 polluting fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind,

 geothermal, hydro etc.  Clearly, the industrialized countries needed to cut

 down on carbon dioxide emissions by burning fuel more efficiently and by

 developing alternatives. 

 66. The Group considered an alternative analysis of the links between

 population and climate change which produced a different set of conclusions. 

 According to that analysis, there were two principal mechanisms by which

 population growth in developing countries contributed to the potential for

 global warming.  The first was through population growth and higher per

 capita energy consumption levels because of increased demand for energy for

 power, industry and transport.  The second mechanism was the effect of

 population growth and expanding production on deforestation, with its

 associated emissions of carbon dioxide.  Cutting down trees also reduced the

 major land- based sink for carbon dioxide.

 67. Over the past 30 years, the total contribution of the developing world

 to carbon dioxide emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels was about

 20/per/cent.  The implications of those data were clear.  Although the

 developing world currently contributed relatively little to emissions,

 especially given their larger share of the global population, it was likely

 that they would become a major source of a substantial part of future growth

 in fossil fuel demand, for the same reasons that caused their share in total

 emissions to rise in the past several decades.  Their per capita carbon

 dioxide emissions were still low but were likely to rise with increasing

 income.  Their emissions per dollar of GNP were relatively high; and they had

 and would continue to have higher rates of population growth.

 68. According to that analysis, given that the bulk of carbon dioxide

 emissions originated in the North, population factors had a relatively small

 impact on emissions.  The main reason for increasing amounts of greenhouse

 gases was the world's continued dependence on fossil fuels for energy.  As

 the South increased its industrial base, fossil fuel use would inevitably

 increase and with it, carbon emissions.

                              II.  RECOMMENDATIONS

                                  A.  Preamble

 69. The problems associated with and flowing from patterns of development,

 environmental degradation and population growth and distribution were in many

 parts of the world reaching critical proportions.  The need to address those

 problems was, therefore, urgent. 

 70. Environmental systems were capable of accommodating the human use of

 natural resources only to a certain extent.  When those limits were reached,

 discontinuities in environmental processes arose, often with acutely adverse

 consequences.  Furthermore, population growth often outpaced the ability of

 societies to generate and adopt adequate technological and institutional

 changes.  Detrimental impacts on the environment would, in many contexts, be

 best reduced by a combined strategy of slowing population growth,

 rationalizing population distribution, alleviating poverty, lessening

 environmentally dangerous consumption patterns and introducing appropriate

 technologies and management regimes.  Sound development policies would

 integrate the strategies adopted to achieve all those goals. 

 71. Although demographic, economic and ecological processes were

 inextricably interrelated, the magnitude of the reciprocal impacts in

 different socio-cultural and ecological settings was not sufficiently

 documented.  Thus, to promote sustainable development, there was urgent need

 to strengthen data collection and research efforts in that domain and to test

 the efficacy of proposed policies and strategies in concrete settings.

 72. The Expert Group, having reviewed the available methodological

 approaches, empirical research and its policy and operational implications,

 proposed the following recommendations.  The implementation of those

 recommendations would require considerable additional financial and technical

 resources, particularly for the developing world.  The international

 community was urged to contribute and mobilize the urgently required

 additional resources on a sustained basis.

                               B.  Recommendations

 Recommendation 1

     Because there are strong linkages between population, development and

 the environment, Governments are urged to establish or strengthen mechanisms

 to coordinate policies and programmes and give unified direction for

 integrating environmental and population concerns into development

 policy-making and planning.  In particular, Governments are urged, when

 formulating their social and economic policies, plans and programmes in any

 sector, to take fully into account the implications of projected demographic

 trends and of patterns of production and consumption, for the protection of

 the environment and the conservation of natural resources.  Governments

 should incorporate these population concerns into national conservation


 Recommendation 2

     Governments should support the development of technologies and the use

 of currently available technologies designed to achieve sustained economic

 growth and sustainable development while maintaining a balance between

 population and resources, with particular attention to replacing fossil fuels

 with renewable energy sources, and should create incentives for promoting

 their application.  Developed countries should make these technologies

 available to developing countries at reasonable cost.

 Recommendation 3

     To avoid further environmental degradation and, where possible, to

 improve environmental conditions, Governments are urged to identify areas

 subject to acute population pressures, such as arid lands, tropical forests,

 watersheds, coasts and coastal waters, and to institute policies, such as

 integrated population and development policies, that will alleviate the

 pressure on the environment.

 Recommendation 4

     Governments should encourage the implementation of ecologically

 beneficial labour-intensive projects such as reforestation,

 contour-levelling, terracing and small-scale irrigation and drainage for

 their environmental benefits and to assist in job creation.

 Recommendation 5

     Community-based population and environment programmes should emphasize

 the participation of women as environmental managers, including the

 employment of women in government conservation programmes such as

 reforestation, social forestry schemes, parks and protected areas. 

 Therefore, Governments should improve women's educational levels, health

 status, employment opportunities, environmental sensitivity and participation

 in national and local decision- making. 

 Recommendation 6

     Given the increasing scarcity of water, especially under conditions of

 rapid population growth and urbanization, Governments should develop the best

 uses of the water available, maximize the productivity of biomass and other

 products per unit of water, find options for water-saving industrial

 production of goods, improve scientific and planning capacity, and develop an

 integrated approach to land and water management.

 Recommendation 7

     Because poverty is closely related to continued high fertility and rural

 and urban environmental degradation, Governments are encouraged to enhance

 the access of the rural and urban poor to employment opportunities, credit,

 and social services such as education, health and family planning.  To

 achieve these ends, Governments should promote community participation in

 improving the delivery of these services.

 Recommendation 8

     Since many of the changes required involve radical alterations in human

 behaviour in order to improve and conserve local environments and promote the

 small, healthy family, great emphasis should be put on popular education and

 participation/- especially those of women. 

 Recommendation 9

     National Governments should provide additional resources to local

 authorities for the management of cities, particularly those that are

 experiencing rapid population growth; and adequate training should be

 provided in municipal management, including the provision of environmental


 Recommendation 10

     Governments, international organizations and non-governmental

 organizations are urged to find durable solutions to problems related to

 environmentally displaced persons, including the provision of support and

 assistance to receiving regions and countries and to work towards the

 elimination of the root causes of these problems.

 Recommendation 11

     Since increasing population pressure is leading to the establishment of

 new human settlements and an extension of the exploitation of natural

 resources into areas highly vulnerable to natural disasters, Governments and

 international agencies are urged to minimize the ensuing hazards to the

 environment and human health and safety by such means as urban land-use

 planning and the promotion of emergency prevention and preparedness.

 Recommendation 12

     International governmental and non-governmental organizations are urged

 to intensify and increase their efforts in promoting an understanding of the

 severe impacts on health of environmental degradation and in transferring

 appropriate technologies for monitoring and minimizing such impacts to

 countries in need of them.

 Recommendation 13

     International organizations should increase their assistance to

 countries in the fields of population, sustainable development and

 environment, especially in training, research, policy formulation and the

 integration of population and environment-related factors in national


 Recommendation 14

     International organizations, Governments and non-governmental

 organizations should increase their efforts to create greater awareness of

 the interrelated issues of population, environment and development.  This

 should be done through the formal education system, existing demographic

 training institutions and collaborative training and educational programmes

 of non-governmental organizations. 

 Recommendation 15

     In order to address the relationships between population, environment,

 economic growth and sustainable development issues, databases should be

 strengthened and developed so as to promote an understanding of these issues

 and to make them available and accessible to policy makers and programme


 Recommendation 16

     Policy-oriented research should be undertaken to identify critically

 endangered areas beset by population pressures, destruction of the ecosystem

 and degradation of resources and to determine how these factors interact.

 Recommendation 17

     In devising strategies for sustainable development, special attention

 should be given to improving the plight of indigenous populations.  Their

 accumulated knowledge and methods for sustainable exploitation should be

 taken into account. 

 Recommendation 18

     In order to implement these recommendations, Governments and

 international organizations should identify and openly analyse the

 conflicting goals between countries, regions and groups so as to make

 fruitful negotiation possible and to create solutions with mutual gains.


     1/   See Report of the United Nations World Population Conference,

 1974, Bucharest, 19-30 August 1974 (United Nations publication, Sales

 No./E.75.XIII.3), chap./I. 

     2/   World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future

 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987), p./8.


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