Ice Stupas Help Ghost Villages of Ladakh Become Habitable Again

Context: With increasing average temperatures and shrinking glaciers, several villages in Ladakh have turned into ghost towns with abandoned but habitable houses and wasted agricultural land.

Analysis

  • To address these issues, the government, through the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, joined hands with the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) in November 2019, for research, documentation and development of the tribal communities of Ladakh.
  • One of the components of the project is ‘Rehabilitation of Abandoned Villages through Ice Stupas’. 

What are Ice Stupas?

  • Ice Stupa is a form of glacier grafting technique that creates artificial glaciers, used for storing winter water (which otherwise would go unused) in the form of conical shaped ice heaps.
  • During summer, when water is scarce, the Ice Stupa melts to increase the water supply for crops.
  • The resulting conical shape of the artificial glacier melts approximately 5 times slower than naturally formed ground ice and snow due to its comparatively smaller surface area.
  • Ice Stupa was invented by engineer, innovator and education reformist Sonam Wangchuk, who is the founder-director of the NGO Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).
  • While there was an Ice Stupa in one village in 2013-14, the expertise expanded to 26 locations across Ladakh in 2019-20 after the government chipped in.

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