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‘Ice Stupas’ stream of Hope


Ladakh is a region in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a cold dessert. Life is very difficult in this region.
This region was facing the shortage of water in the month of summers. This was the time to grow crops. During this period Everyone needed water voraciously but all streams dried up. The tranquility of these remote villages was broken when families had fight for water.
This grave problem was solved by an innovative idea of a  mechanical engineer Sonam Wangchuk.
Wangchuk created artificial glaciers called ‘Ice Stupas’ by freezing millions of litres of water.
Sonam wangchuk  pioneered a method of freezing fields of water high up in the mountains. He diverted streams to trickle slowly into them. When one layer of water froze the more water was allowed to flow in and freeze. This was done until a two-metre-thick block of ice was formed.
In the warm months of spring the ice melted and flowed down through channels to the fields. But there was a problem. Due to temperature rise the pond of ice melted too quickly. The villagers ran out of water before summer.
During the summer time there arose shortage of drinking water.
Once Wangchuk noticed the ice under a bridge hadn’t melted even at the lowest elevation in Ladakh in the month of May. It was clear to him that it wasn’t temperature but the direct sunlight which was causing rapid melting. It was clear If ice could be shaded from the sun, it could last longer.
The answer to the problem of ice melting too fast was to freeze water in the shape of a cone that presents minimum surface area to the sun and holds the maximum volume of water. This way the idea of ‘Ice Stupas’ came into existence.
Wangchuk with his students piped water from upstream using gravity. This way they do not need electricity or machinery. They brought the water to a spot that was a little more than 3,000 metres in elevation. The water turned to ice before it hit the ground. Numerous frozen water droplets accumulated in the form of a pyramid resembling Buddhist Stupas. These Ice Stupas last till may and provide sufficient water to region.
For his Ice Stupas Wangchuk received Rolex Award in November 2016. Rolex Award is given to individuals with innovative ideas that make the world a better place.
Born on September 1, 1966 at UleyTokpo, near Alchi, a Trans Himalayan region of Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk is a innovator and educational reformist.
He is the Founding Director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) which was founded in 1988. It is an alternative school for about 60 students a year who fail the school board exams. It is situated in Phey, 13 kilometres from Leh,
SECMOL was started by a group of students who had been the ‘victims’ of the alien education system foisted on Ladakh and its people. SECMOL strives to rebuild the lost pride and self-confidence of the people of Ladakh. through its educational reforms programme. Moreover, Wangchuk has designed educational reforms programme where students are taught by giving practical knowledge of scientific theories. The SECMOL campus runs completely on solar energy and uses no electricity for lighting and heating.
Wangchuk received many awards for his reforms.

He was awarded Governor’s Medal for educational reform in Jammu & Kashmir, 1996.

Ashoka Fellowship for Social  Entrepreneurship in 2001.

The Green Teacher Award by the magazine ‘Sanctuary Asia’.

He was invited to the Asia 21 Young Leaders’ Summit in Seoul, Korea.

India – CNN IBN India Real Heroes Award by CNN IBN TV.
UNESCO Chair for Earth Architecture – Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development.

Terra Award and Rolex Award in 2016.

Sonam Wangchuk has dedicated his life for the people of Ladakh. He decided to use whole prize money as a seed money for development of his region.


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