Breaking Ice

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Chewang Norphel, an Indian civil engineer from Ladakh, has found a solution to the water crisis faced by the farmers of the region. He created the first-of-its-kind artificial glaciers to support agriculture in the snow-filled regions. He created 15 artificial glaciers in Ladakh. Norphel’s largest glacier is the one at the Phuktsey village. It is 1,000 ft long, 150 ft wide and 4 ft in depth. It can supply water for the entire village of 700 people and costed Rs.90,000/- to make. He was awarded a Padmashree in 2015.

artificial glacier march

The cold regions, where Norphel introduced his technique, are mostly barren and rocky and farmers face a perpetual water shortage.The rain is scarce and farmers depend on snowmelt to supply water for irrigation. The cropping window, or period in which cultivation can be done, lasts seven months before severe winter arrives in October. Any delay in sowing crops can wipe out a harvest because the crop may not mature in time to beat the cold weather. The short sowing season sometimes begins and ends before the bulk of natural glacier melt-water begins to flow to the region.Norphel saw first-hand how much the people of his region suffered when irrigation water was unavailable when critically needed.

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