During winter season in the cold deserts of Ladakh region, agriculture is not practiced due to frozen ground soil and low temperatures. But during summer, the water streams dry up quickly due to increase in ice melts making the water availability difficult. The idea of creating ice stupa by SonamWangchuk has been inspired by Chewang Norphel’s work of creating artificial glaciers. Ice Stupas are created during winter season when water is excess and the ice tower is conserved till summer, providing water for agricultural fields until the real glacial melt waters start flowing in June. It is named as “Stupa” because the shape of the glacier resembled the traditional Stupas or Chortens of North India.

The idea of creating Ice Stupa is very simple and cost effective.  They are a conical shaped ice heapthat is created by glacier grafting technique. An underground pipeline is joined from a higher point on the water stream to the outskirts of the village and adjusted manually according to the size of the stupa to make the water reach the full height of the vertical stupa. As water always maintains its level, it reaches the tip of the pipe without the need of electricity to pump water to a higher level. The water flowing down from the tip of pipe would freeze by the time it reaches the ground and slowly form a huge cone of ice due to the low atmospheric temperatures (around -30 to -50°C). Since these ice cones extend vertically upwards towards the sun, they offer minimum surface area to the sun whilst holding high volume of water. Hence, longer time is required to melt the Ice Stupa even at higher temperatures in summer compared to an artificial glacier of the same volume formed horizontally on a flat surface. The schedule of building Ice Stupas, right from ground preparation starts from mid-October and the main work of raising stupas will happen in the months of December to February. Ice Stupas created right next to the village where the water is needed has gained prominence. The project ice stupas is crowd funded to solve the water problems of people in Ladakh. The project of Ice Stupa has been launched in October 2013 by Sonam for which he was awarded Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2016.

Author: Dr C. Nagendranatha Reddy, Bioengineering and Environmental Sciences Lab, EEFF Division, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, India, and Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea

(Image source: http://icestupa.org/)





https://www.thebetterindia.com/15896/artificial-ice-stupa-can-solve-ladakh-water- problems -sonam-wangchuk/