In Ladakh, Crowd Sourcing Artificial Glaciers to Buffer a Warming Climate

March 30, 2015

Climate Central:

Villagers of the high desert of Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir states used to harvest bountiful crops of barley, wheat, fruits, and vegetables in summer.

But for years the streams have run dry in spring, just when farmers needed water to sow seeds. They had water when it wasn’t needed during the rest of the year, such as in winter, when Ladakhis let water gush from taps to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

Villagers blame climate change for causing glaciers to shrink.

To resolve the water-shortage problem, Sonam Wangchuk, a mechanical engineer, and his team of volunteers are building a gigantic vertical block of ice in Phyang, nine miles from Leh, the capital of Ladakh. When spring comes and the artificial glacier melts, farmers will have flowing water.

The ingenious method stores water without the need for concrete water storage tanks or dams. While it won’t stop glaciers from shrinking, it could help people adapt to a warming world.

Last winter, Wangchuk built a 6-meter prototype on a fully exposed riverbank to test his idea. It stored 150,000 liters of water at 3,170 meters, the lowest altitude in Leh valley. This, he said, proved ice pyramids can be built anywhere in the region.

The frozen cone resembles Buddhist mud stupas, and Wangchuk was quick to come up with a name for them: ice stupa. When the prototype lasted until mid-May, he was encouraged to attempt a 30-meter pyramid of ice this winter.

But the cost of piping water from the Phyang stream, 1.5 miles away, was an exorbitant $100,000. Unperturbed, he raised the money on the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo and work began on January 21.

More at the link.


5 Responses to “In Ladakh, Crowd Sourcing Artificial Glaciers to Buffer a Warming Climate”

  1. Richard Says:

    I guess his heart’s in the right place but he’s engaged in an exercise in futility.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty spectacular in its own way, but looking at the link and the $$$ facts there makes me think a tiny bit about Solar Roadway. Although it seems more “honest” than SR, this is no long term solution.

      • John Scanlon Says:

        If the crowd provides free capital and each year’s water storage (with neolithic technology, not alien magic) provides enough food and soil improvement to justify doing it again next year, what’s futile about it? I think it’ll be a while before they stop getting frost there.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          The “crowd” will provide capital only until their own situation causes them to instead put it under their mattresses for their own “non-rainy” day needs (maybe use it to buy guns and survival supplies?). (And no “capital” is ever truly “free”).

          Living in such a marginal place as the “high desert” and relying on mountain glaciers that are expected to disappear before too long (80+% of them in the Himalayas are shrinking now) is no long term plan.

          “Doing it again next year” IS perhaps feasible for next year and beyond, and they are to be admired for trying, but I would bet that village will be gone 200 years from now, to say nothing of what may happen to the billion+ people farther downstream in India and Bangladesh who rely on meltwater from the Himalayas (and that’s ignoring those in China and Southeast Asia).

          As far as “….it’ll be a while before they stop getting frost there” goes, take a look at the snowpack/meltwater situation in the American West—especially CA, CO, UT and WY. It’s not as simple as “it’s cold enough for water to freeze”.

  2. Richard Says:

    It’s futile because the rest of human “civilisation” will continue on its merry way to self-destruction taking everyone and everything else along for the ride.

    And neolithic technology is what put us on this road to extinction. Anything much beyond paleolithic will inevitably get us what we’ve got. Homo sapiens is not sufficiently evolved to live together in large numbers in a closed system. The species needs to be returned the paleo/forager/hunter/gatherer paradigm of very small autonomous bands.

    It seems that humans are best adapted to Life in small groups with a maximum of no more than 150 members. Personally I think 150 is really pushing it. Why? Kunlangeta, that’s why. See more here:

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