Population control is key to alleviating poverty and achieving higher growth rate for the country — this is the message the Kerala Health and Family Welfare Department will carry across the State in the next fortnight as part of World Population Day, which was observed here on Thursday.

The day, initiated in 1987 by the World Health Organisation, seeks to create awareness of the need to control population. A fortnight-long campaign will be held in the State to highlight the need to maintain a small family, which would not only benefit the country, but also be in the best interests of the family. The campaign will stress on the need to prevent adolescent pregnancy.

Inaugurating the programme at the Kanakakunnu Palace, Minister for Health V.S. Sivakumar said a check on population growth was inevitable to reduce the burden on natural resources and sustain the economic growth trajectory. The State had achieved good results in family planning, but more needs to be done on the front, he added.

Calling upon young girls to play an active role in creating awareness of the adverse effects of population explosion, he said the State government had planned a number of programmes aimed at improving the health of mother and newborns.

Speaking on the occasion, K. Muraleedharan, MLA, said religious beliefs and customs should not come in the way of implementing family planning. “Religion, caste, and customs often come in the way of adhering to strict population control measures. Society was becoming more forward looking, and such beliefs should be discarded,” he said.

Mr. Sivakumar also distributed prizes to winners of a painting competition held as part of World Population Day.

Prior to the commencement of the programme, a rally was held from Museum junction to Kanakakunnu Palace on issues highlighting the theme of the day.