The World Environment Day is on June 5.The climate changes and the challenges faced by the Humans are increasing. All over the world, people are trying to find solutions, in a local context, with a global perspective.The Ice - Stupa project is one such solution.
Ladakh is a trans-Himalayan mountain desert in the north of India with villages located at 2,700 m to 4,000 m altitude. It is a cold desert and traditionally people used to divert river water through canals.
Villagers of the high desert of Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state used to harvest bountiful crops of barley, wheat, fruits, and vegetables in summer.
The streams however run dry in spring when farmers needed water to sow seeds. They had surplus water in winter. There is an acute water shortage now because of global warming.
Sonam Wangchuk ,one of the founders of the The Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) says, Ladakhis have mastered the art of living in harmony of nature, carving oasis of green villages in dry deserts. However, the resilience of the Ladakhi people and their agricultural livelihoods are being tested by these changes.
In early 2014, Wangchuk and his students built a 6-metre tall prototype of an ice cone. An underground pipe brought water from the river upstream to barren land in the village. In temperatures of 20 degrees centigrade or more below zero the water froze instantly and the team built up the structure layer by layer.
The locals call it an “ice stupa” because it resembles traditional Buddhist monuments. Although the ice stupa is exposed to the sun, it melts very slowly. The first stupa survived until May 18, melting away entirely when temperatures reached 30 degrees centigrade.
Wangchuk’s mentor, Chewang Norphel earned the nickname “ice man” for pioneering work in the area. The conventional glaciers would be 2 meters deep and spread over a wide area. Wangchuk’s brainwave was to make them taller, reducing the surface area for the same volume of ice.He realized the melting speed of artificial glaciers was linked to the surface area exposed to sun and wind. “The challenge was make ice last (that too in the lower altitude through) May and June, when the farmers needed it the most. Then, I thought the shape of the ice was key.”
The creative sustainable solution does not require concrete water storage tanks
Engineers and volunteers along with the villagers and monks of Phyang have started working on the project. The water from these ice stupas would help the villagers in the crucial planting months of April and May, as well as helping them green a vast patch of desert.
Language teachers can give this as an exercise in comprehension.Science teachers can ask students to discuss the scientific method used to tackle water shortage.Social Science teachers can discuss about cold and hot deserts,the challenges people face.
Here are some additional questions you can ask students ,based on the above information:
1.Will the same solution work in other cold parts of the world that have a similar problem?
2.Do local solutions work better for global problems?
3.Why are the glaciers melting at a faster rate today?