Kedarnath tragedy: MoS environment on verge of tears recalling how half his family survived

Minister of State for Food and Environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey was on the verge of tears as he recalled on Wednesday how he and half his family survived the Kedarnath flood disaster of June 2013.

Choubey, speaking here at a CII sustainability event, said he not only saw how climate change was affecting the entire world, but also witnessed it first hand and lost some of his family members in one of the world’s worst natural disasters. Recalling the catastrophic flash flood that occurred in the Kedarnath Shrine area in Uttarakhand, the minister said he was visiting the temple along with his family members.

“I have lost and won through this tragedy. I had to leave half of the family members behind. For four days we remained in the Holy of Holies of the Temple without food or water… I saw this catastrophe,” he said.

“I don’t know how God saved my third generation family members. 17 of us had left to visit the temple, but eight of them (safely) returned. Myself, wife, two sons and daughters-in-law and two grandchildren,” he said in mourning. The minister urged private sector actors to take action to address climate change challenges, saying global warming is affecting the world and nature must be protected. “We must protect the five elements of nature: earth (pritvi), water (jala), fire (tejas), wind (vayu) and space (akasha). Man and the entire universe are made up of five elements,” he said.

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This realization has happened and that is why the whole world is betting on sustainable development, including from the Paris Agreement to the Glasgow Climate Pact, he added. Food Minister Sudhanshu Pandey said climate change and sustainability are no longer just academic issues, they are on our doorstep. “You’ve given us enough wake-up calls, and it’s time to work together to address the issue that threatens Mother Earth’s very existence,” he said. The need of the hour is to pool public and private resources to tackle climate change and sustainability challenges, he added.

The secretary said the government is preparing to set the target for 2047 to mark India’s 100 years of independence. “Sustainability and mitigating the impact of climate change is one of the priorities. All ministries work together and one of the most important elements of the approach would be public-private partnerships,” he said. Thankfully, according to the secretary, India has weathered the Covid crisis quite well, notwithstanding the 4Fs – food, fuel, fertilizer and finance – which have pushed global inflation quite high. During the pandemic, food security became a bigger issue, but India has handled it well. For more than two years, India has handed out more than $100 billion in food subsidies to 80 crore poor during the pandemic. Food is the basic human need. The government stepped in with food subsidies at the right time as jobs were lost, industries shut down and incomes lost during the pandemic, he said.

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“This has helped the economy recover,” he added. Fertilizer is the same story, the secretary said, adding that without this, several countries in Africa and even neighboring countries face serious fertilizer supply challenges due to supply disruptions and the unavailability of some raw materials. But India has also dealt with this very effectively, securing supplies, he added. Stressing that India is very focused on food security and dealing with this issue of sustainability, the minister said harvesting of kharif rice has started and sourcing in North India will start from next month.

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”Estimates suggest that our government procurement will be 4-5 percent higher than last year. It’s about over 50 million tons,” he said. ITC Chairman and Chief Executive Sanjiv Puri explained how global warming is posing challenges to various parts of the world including India which has experienced both floods and droughts threatening agriculture.

The whole facet of food security is becoming critical in the face of the challenge of feeding more as climate change fuels the inflation trend, he said, calling for urgent action.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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