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World population growing at record rate

Earth's population of 5.2-billion people will increase this decade by nearly 1-billion, the fastest population growth in history, a United Nations official said Wednesday. The population is increasing by three people every second, or about a quarter of a million every day, said Nafis Sadik, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund.

In 1990 alone, 90-million to 100-million people, or about the combined population of the Philippines and South Korea, will be added in the world, she said.

"By and large, the biggest increases will happen in the poorest countries, those by definition least equipped to meet the needs of the new arrivals and invest in their future," Sadik said in a speech at the week-long One Asia Assembly.

In 1984 population growth was slowing everywhere except in Africa and parts of South Asia, but the decline was not enough, she said. "Today, the situation looks less promising. Progress in reducing birth rates has been slower than expected."

Unless the trend is reversed soon, she said, the world's population by the end of the next century probably would reach 14-billion rather than the 10-billion to 11-billion now projected.

She said many Asian governments have declared a determined effort to reduce population growth, but many countries continue to grow at an average of 2 percent to 2.5 percent annually.

In Southeast Asia, she added, rapid population growth is damaging the economic gains many countries have achieved.

"One consequence of rapid population growth is to hold back or cripple altogether the prospects of balanced development," she said.

"My vision of the future, despite the gloomy statistics I quoted earlier, is quite optimistic. Asian countries have shown that population programs can be successful. This is the first step toward a sustainable development."

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