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snowmelt-irrigation-in-ladakh



  Mar 14, 2024

Snowmelt Irrigation in Ladakh



What is snowmelt irrigation and why is it important in Ladakh?

Snowmelt irrigation involves the use of water from melting snow to irrigate crops. In Ladakh, almost 90% of farmers depend on this method for cultivating barley, wheat, and vegetables. It is crucial because it provides a sustainable and eco-friendly water source in an area with limited rainfall and challenging terrain.

How does snowmelt irrigation work?

During winter, snow accumulates in the mountains, storing water. With the onset of spring and summer, this snow begins to melt, releasing water that flows downhill into agricultural fields through a network of channels and canals designed to distribute this precious resource effectively.

What are the benefits of using snowmelt for irrigation in Ladakh?

The benefits include sustainability, as it does not deplete groundwater or require energy-intensive pumping. It is eco-friendly, aligns with climate-resilient agriculture practices by reducing dependency on erratic rainfall, controls soil erosion, prevents flash floods, and maintains the ecological balance of the region’s mountain ecosystems.

How does climate change affect snowmelt-based irrigation?

Climate change alters precipitation patterns and accelerates glacial melt, posing challenges to the sustainability of snowmelt-based irrigation. These changes may lead to reduced water availability for irrigation and increased vulnerability to water scarcity and droughts.

What adaptive strategies are being used in Ladakh to address these challenges?

Ladakh is adopting several adaptive strategies, including the use of drip and sprinkler irrigation systems that require less water, government subsidies to support these initiatives, mulching techniques to conserve moisture, and the creation of Ice Stupas to store winter water for summer irrigation.

How do Ice Stupas contribute to irrigation in Ladakh?

Ice Stupas, an innovative form of glacier grafting, involve freezing winter water into large ice structures. These artificial glaciers melt during the summer, providing water for irrigation at a time when it is most needed, thereby ensuring the availability of water for agriculture during the warmer months.

What is the significance of snowmelt irrigation for Ladakh’s future?

Snowmelt irrigation is integral to ensuring food security, preserving ecological balance, and adapting to climatic changes in Ladakh. It represents a nature-inspired solution that emphasizes the importance of sustainable and resilient agricultural practices in maintaining a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural environment.


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