Indian scientist awarded first Sunhak Peace Prize

Dr Modadugu Vijay GuptaSEOUL: Noted Indian agriculture scientist Dr Modadugu Vijay Gupta, who has done pioneering work in aquaculture in India, Bangladesh and several Southeast Asian countries, was today awarded the first Sunhak Peace Prize which he shared with the President of Kiribati Islands.

Gupta, 76, shared the USD 1 million prize with President of Kiribati Islands Anote Tong here at a glittering function which was attended by invitees from all over the world.

Tong, 63, the head of the Pacific Ocean island nation which is facing dire prospects of being engulfed by rising sea waters by 2050, was chosen for the award for his dogged fight to end the carbon emissions which are spelling doom for small island nations.

Billed as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, the awards were presented by South Korean religious leader Dr Hak Ja Han Moon, the wife of late Rev Sun Myung Moon, who instituted the awards to recognize and highlight the work of individuals making big efforts for the betterment of the people.

Hailing from Bapatla in Andhra Pradesh, Gupta, a biologist, was also the recipient of the World Food Prize in 2005 for development and dissemination of low-cost techniques for freshwater fish farming.

Before his retirement, he served as the Assistant Director General at WorldFish, an international fisheries research institute under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) based in Penang, Malaysia.

Starting his career as a scientist in Indian Council Agriculture Research over three decades ago in Kolkata, Gupta worked in Laos, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand pursuing his belief that the aqua technology which can provide food security and improve livelyhoods of rural poor.

“I believed throughout my career that all the advanced fish farming technology which we created in laboratories should be taken to people, then only it can make a difference to their lives,” he told PTI after receiving the award.

Regarded as a rebel within the ranks of the agricultural scientist community in India, Gupta mostly worked with the UN and agriculture related international organizations in different countries.

His work with rural communities in Bangladesh, a nation bestowed with lot of water resources, has made fish farming a major source of livelihood for millions of rural poor, according to the organizers.

As a scientist advocating sustainable alternatives, Gupta said aquaculture should be seen as a major source of food security.

“There can be no peace without food security in the world. You cannot talk peace to a hungry man,” he said.

The aquaculture also improved the economic and social status of rural women in places like Bangladesh besides providing food security to their families, he said.

Tong said he is determined to carry forward his fight for reduction of carbon emissions to save island nations like Kiribati and the Maldives.

According to recent studies, Kiribati islands consisting 33 atolls and islands with about one lakh population will be swallowed by rising sea waters by 2050.

While the awareness about the global warming and climate change has grown, he said not enough is being done yet.

There should be a moratorium on new coal mines as coal is the biggest emitter of carbon emissions, he stressed and pointed out that this will be his main campaign theme in the forthcoming Paris climate conference this year.

Calling for a special package by the world for small island nations to cope up with the rising sea levels, Tong said his country is looking for alternatives like floating islands as dignified accommodation of its people in neighboring countries not as environmental refugees but citizens with proper rights.

Elaborating on the significance of the Sunhak Peace Prize, committee chairman Dr Il-Sik Hong said the prize was established by Dr Hak Ja Han Moon to promote the concept of “one global family” promoting peace, prosperity and universal values.

“Peace is new civilization. In order to go beyond the limits of civilizations that humanity had constructed until the 20th century and live a truly happy lifestyle, we need to create a new culture that meets the needs of the new era,” he said.–PTI

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