World population closing in on 6 billion
September 22, 1999
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- On October 12, the world will reach a dramatic milestone, according to the U.N. Population Fund. On that day, the planet's population will hit 6 billion -- marking a fourfold increase this century alone.
The U.N. study, due out Wednesday, projects that by 2050, some 8.9 billion people will be living on Earth.
It took a mere 12 years for the population to rise from 5 billion to 6 billion. While growth has slowed or stopped in Europe, North America and Japan, it is soaring in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and West Asia.
India has witnessed the most significant increase, adding 16 million people in just five years. In less than 50 years, India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation, with 1.5 billion people.
Some observers believe the global population boom will strain the planet's natural resources, including drinking water.
"There are probably a billion and a half people in the world who do not have fresh, safe water to drink. We have made progress, but much of that progress in some parts of the world (has) been washed away by rapid population growth," said Lester Brown of Worldwatch.
Others think the increase in population is a sign of progress.
"If you look at the world today with 6 billion people, you know what the problem with food today is?" asked Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute. "We have too much of it. We have farmers growing too much food. We have countries like China exporting food."
To add to the growth, people are living longer. Global life expectancy has risen from 46 to 66 years.
However, people are having fewer children. The U.N. Population Fund says fertility rates in less developed regions have dropped from more than six children per woman in 1950 to less than three today.
Due to this declining fertility, the United Nations projects the world's population will never again soar so fast.
Mexico's birth rate drops as planners worry about future
United Nations Population Fund
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