Ice stupas to solve the water crisis

Meet the engineers who build from scratch to help isolated villages in , the northern most province of . Sonam Wangchuk’s team hope that when the man-made sculptures melt, they will provide in times of need.

A slightly more expensive but much longer lasting solution would be to run pipes with super chilled salt brine through the Ice piles to make them last longer (similar to an ice rink). By changing the rate of flow of the brine or stopping it completely you could control the rate of melt as a means of rationing. Turning on the brine pumps even after the glacier has melted would condense and freeze the moisture right out of the air as well.

We are loosing our glaciers for almost no fault of ours” … Man you really made me feel guilty for someone living a life with zero emphasis on conserving our planet 😞

All life depends on snow in Ladakh, with the high-altitude desert region receiving only 50mm of rainfall a year. Agriculture relies mainly on the water that comes from snow and glacial melt, but with rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, most villages in the area are experiencing severe water shortage. Since 1980 the average temperature has increased by more than two degrees, with a huge effect on the local environment. The glaciated area in Ladakh has been lost, meaning that glaciers are much smaller and in some areas have disappeared altogether. Sonam Wangchuck has been on a mission to help villagers to adapt to the changing climate through his ice stupa concept. The ice stupa builds upon a simple idea – by directing glacial melt or water travelling downstream through a pipe to a location nearby. This water is then channelled vertically, freezing and forming cone-like structures in temperatures reaching minus 20 degrees Celsius [≈ room temperature]. Russell Beard travels to Ladakh to join Wangchuck in building an ice stupa and explores how this innovative solution is helping the local community.

Ice Stupa is a form of glacier grafting technique that creates artificial glaciers, used for storing winter water (which otherwise would go unused) in the form of conical shaped ice heaps. During summer, when water is scarce, the Ice Stupa melts to increase water supply for crops. Ice Stupa was invented by Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh (India) and the project is undertaken by the NGO Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh. Launched in October 2013, the test project started in January 2014 under the project name The Ice Stupa project. On 15 November 2016, Sonam Wangchuk was awarded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise for his work on Ice Stupa.


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