Ice Stupas: Sustainable Water Solution in Ladakh

  Feb 26, 2024

Ice Stupas in Ladakh

What is the problem Ladakh is facing?

Ladakh, a cold desert high in the Himalayas, is facing a water shortage due to:

Decreasing snowfall and melting glaciers: This threatens the region's agriculture and livestock farming.

Fast warming climate: This makes the problem worse by accelerating glacier retreat.

What are ice stupas, and how do they help?

Ice stupas are artificial glaciers that resemble Buddhist monasteries. They are built by:

Diverting stream water: Water is diverted and channeled through a pipe into a conical structure made of earth, rope, and grass.

Freezing the water: As water flows through the structure, it freezes, creating a cone of ice.

These ice stupas melt during dry months (April-June) to:

Provide irrigation water: This helps farmers grow crops and sustain their livelihoods.

Revive streams: Some ice stupas melt into naturally flowing streams that had dried up.

What are the different types of ice reservoirs used in Ladakh?

There are five main types of ice reservoirs used in Ladakh:

Basin: These are simple depressions where water collects and freezes naturally.

Cascade: These resemble steps built from dry stones, allowing water to freeze in stages.

Diversion: Stream water is diverted to shaded areas, forming "frozen pipes" of ice.

Ice stupa: As described above, resembling Buddhist stupas.

Ice mountain/fall: Water is sprayed over a cliff, instantly freezing and creating an ice formation.

What are the challenges of using ice stupas?

Limited data: There's still limited data on water storage capacity and long-term effectiveness.

Annual construction: They need to be rebuilt every year, which is laborious.

Dependence on natural glaciers: They can only exist as long as natural glaciers do.

What other measures are being taken in Ladakh to combat climate change?

Spraying snow on natural glaciers: This helps prevent black soot from accelerating meltingv. Building "carbon negative" structures: SECMOL campus uses solar power and builds with local materials to minimize its environmental impact.

Promoting sustainable construction: Earth and naturally occurring soil are used to build earthquake-resistant structures.

What is the future of this technology?

Continuous innovation is crucial as glaciers retreat and the climate warms.
Collaboration is key, with projects like Ice Stupa partnering with international teams to share knowledge and develop new solutions.


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