26 October, 2020

In Time For The Spring Meltdown

In the remote arid regions of Ladakh, the only way to store water for the sowing season is to make a glacier

In Time For The Spring Meltdown
He is better known as Ladakh’s glacier man. Someone who makes artificial glaciers in winter so that villagers can get water in summer for their fields. Chewang Norphel, an unassuming retired government engineer in Leh, understands Ladakh’s acute water scarcity. "While in the state’s department for rural development, whenever I toured villages, a constant refrain from the people would be for water," he says.

Tucked between China and Pakistan, this is one of India’s remotest—and driest regions. It has a short summer and farmers must sow their crops in April-June. Norphel’s artificial glacier enables them to get water a full month before the snow starts melting on mountain tops.

How does one go about making an artificial glacier? No crops are grown in Ladakh’s severe winter season and the little water in the mountain streams generally goes waste. Norphel hit upon the idea of diverting this water to a convenient spot with the help of pipes. Mud bundhs are made at intervals on the hillside to enable the water to accumulate.

The diverted water freezes in...



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