This Incredible Artificial Glacier In Ladakh Is Something Every Indian Should Know About

Photo of This Incredible Artificial Glacier In Ladakh Is Something Every Indian Should Know About 1/1 by Pritha Puri
The artificial glacier is covered with prayer flags. Credit:

Do you remember Phunshuk Wangdu from the movie 3 Idiots, who with his incredibly genius inventions and offbeat ideas, had made it to being one of the most sought after scientists in the world? Well, his character is not completely fake and exists for real! The inspiration behind this character is the winner of the Rolex Award 2016, Sonam Wangchuk, a native of Ladakh who founded SECMOL, an institute for education and cultural movements for students in Leh, and took up the responsibility of creating educational, cultural and environmental awareness amongst the locals of the Himalayan kingdom.

Soldiers from the Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre have helped a great deal in laying down pipes for water to be transported to the site of the ice-stupa. Credit: IceStupa

Photo of Leh by Pritha Puri

He is the creator of the 'Ice-Stupa', an artificial glacier that has been created to increase the water supply in remote areas of Ladakh, which face shortage of water during summer. The idea was to freeze water in the form of a stupa, and increase the amount of stored water during winter. The stupa would gradually melt in summer and provide water for grazing and farming. Stupas are dome-shaped buildings that are regarded as Buddhist shrines.

Satellite view of Phyang village shows the route of water flow and site of the stupa. Credit:

Photo of This Incredible Artificial Glacier In Ladakh Is Something Every Indian Should Know About by Pritha Puri

Phyang is a small village 14 kilometres away from Leh on the Srinagar-Leh highway. The temperature here in winter drops down to -30 to -50 degrees. In such extreme weather conditions, the water transported from the Indus river freezes and is utilised later during late summer when there is an acute shortage of water in Ladakh.

The glacier had first been created near the Phyang Monastery, and rose to be 27 feet tall, which is the highest height of the stupa recorded till date. It was constructed without any shade from the sun and is the most successful prototype since 2014. The effort was encouraged by many known figures in Ladakh such as His Holiness Drikung Skyabgon Chetsang Rinpochey, who is the head of the Drikung Kargyud lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Volunteers trying to unroll the cables and pipes, which is quite a task. Credit:

Photo of Phyang by Pritha Puri

This project came into action with the help of volunteers from SECMOL, Phyang Monastery and 'Nunnus' (local term for soldier/brother in Ladakhi) from the Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre right next door to the site where the Ice-Stupa has been built. These volunteers helped lay down pipelines, dig water canals and monitor the progress of the levels of water freezing day and night, making sure this experiment was an absolute success.

Wangchuk hopes to expand this effort to many other remote places where there is water scarcity. The Ice-Stupa can be used by farmers in summer for growing various crops such as apricots (popularly known as khurmani), willow and poplar trees. The benefits of this invention will be reaped by the locals of Phyang village who will, for the first time, use the water that melts from the Ice-Stupa for their daily purposes.

Watch this video where the ice man himself explains more about the Artificial Glaciers Of Ladakh project.

Wangchuk is also the founder of the upcoming Himalayan Institute Of Alternatives in Phyang, which is a university that will enrol students from the Hindukush region to increase awareness on the subjects of climate change and development strategies for the betterment of lives of people who live in high altitude regions. The university is being developed completely on the grounds of donations made to the foundation.

This man has been lauded by the whole world for his contribution to the society and development of backward regions in Nepal, Sikkim and Ladakh. The time has come that India gets to know more about incredible people like Sonam Wangchuk who go out of their way to ameliorate the lives of others and make this world a better place to live.

You can check the official website of the Ice Stupa to know more about this project and other innovations.

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