Ladakh is an arid region with sparse vegetation and scanty rainfall. Glaciers are the fountainhead of water for farming communities in the area. The Himalayan glaciers feed the region’s rivers which irrigate farm land in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent. With global warming melting the Himalayan glaciers at an alarming rate, water shortage has been widespread , affecting numerous lives.
Meet Mr. Chawang Norphel, a retired civil engineer, also known as the Glacier
Man of India. He is waging a one-man battle to stop global warming melting the glaciers. He has developed a simple technique to harvest water into “Artificial Glaciers” using simple materials such as pipes.
By diverting meltwater through a network of pipes into artificial lakes in the shaded side of mountain valleys, he says he has created new glaciers. A dam or embankment is built to keep in the water, which freezes at night and remains frozen in the absence of direct sunlight. The water remains frozen until March, when the start of summer melts the new glacier and releases the water into the rivers below. So far, Mr Norphel’s glaciers have been able to each store up to one million cubic feet of ice, which in turn can irrigate 200 hectares of farm land. For farmers, that can make the difference between crop failure and a bumper crop of more than 1,000 tons of wheat.
The government had encouraged artificial glaciers in few areas of Leh. However, due to manpower and capital costs involved, this intervention is seen as a costly investment by experts.
But, what is remarkable is the willpower of Mr. Chawang Norphel to help the farming communities of Leh.