This Ice Stupas are the Solution to Melting Himalayan Glaciers - chaprama | Insights from the world of Technology and Lifestyle


Sunday, December 4, 2016

This Ice Stupas are the Solution to Melting Himalayan Glaciers

Global warming has a tremendous impact on Glaciers. Slight raise in temperature cause a surge in sea levels by few feet. This leads to the drowning of several underlying regions. A team of researchers from Nepal France and Netherlands has found Everest glaciers sensitive to Global warming and likely to experience a sustained ice loss throughout the 21st century. According to them, there could be a reduction in glacier volume by 70% to 99% by 2100.

Recently, earth scientists at Ohio state university have revealed the root cause of Antarctica pine island glacier breakage in 2015, where in a large chunk of ice (225 square miles) tumbled and broke into the sea. It was found that crack developed well below the ground ie 20 miles inward. Scientists are of the belief that entire west African ice sheet is likely to collapse in the next 100 years sending a massive volume of water into sea. It raises the sea level by almost 10 feet submerging the underlying coastal cities. Many attempts are underway to reduce these drastic effects of global warming.

Only a few Researchers are successful in this regard. Meet Sonam Wangchuk   from Trans-Himalaya region of Ladakh located in India. He is a scientist, engineer, and teacher by profession, the man behind the creation of so-called Ice stupas. He is only the second Indian to win Rolex Award for enterprise on 15 November 2016 at an event held at Dolby theaters in Los angels.

This Ice Stupas are the solution to  Melting Himalayan Glaciers
Sonam Wangchuk/Facebook

What are Rolex awards?

Rolex awards are a series of biennial awards prod by Swiss wrist watch company Rolex. The award recognizes outstanding contributions made in the field of, Science and medicine technology and innovation, exploration and discovery, environment and cultural heritage.
The awards will be five laureates with a cash prize of 1Lakh Swiss francs and 5 associate laurels each bearing 50,000 Swiss francs.

Reason for ice stupas

During the winter season, the temperatures are lower ground water in the ponds, lakes, and streams is frozen to ice. The ambient air temperature is also lower and not suitable for crops. But during spring the frozen ice melts down to water and provides a source for irrigation. But this water is not quite sufficient for irrigation and whatever the water is available is consumed leaving streams and ponds dry.

Idea behind Ice stupas

This Ice Stupas are the solution to  Melting Himalayan Glaciers
Screen capture/youtube

Once Wangchuk drove over a bridge, he noticed ice under a shade even  outside temperatures are higher. So he started thinking what if we could prevent exposure of ice to direct sunlight then frozen water can be prevented from melting quickly. At that time he was thinking about the problem faced by his friend and innovative engineer Chewang Norphel who was able to capture water during winter by building small dams. Slowly layer of water from streams collected started to freeze. He allowed more water to freeze until a two-meter thick block of ice is formed. During spring the ice started melting and provided the source for raising crops. But ice melted rather quickly and all the water was used up before summer.

This gave the impetus and Wangchuk started thinking. if the surface area of glaciers exposed to the sun is decreases then ice melts slowly and can be utilized for longer periods.

Building  of ice stupas

Wangchuk runs a school with about 60students in Phey, located 13 Km's from Ladakh named The Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).Interestingly this school is only for those who have failed in school board exams. It coaches students to learn by applying their minds.

During the winter of 2013 Wangchuk along with his students were able to freeze 1,50,000 liters of water in a six feet prototype. They collected water from upstream by gravity using a mere pipe and without any electricity. The water erupted into a fine mist from the pipe and got converted to ice before reaching the ground resembling wax dipping from a candle.

He crowd sourced Rs 75 lakhs and built large ice stupa in winter 2014.The stupa released 2 million liters of water in June. Since it resembled Buddhist stupa  he named  them as ice stupas. According to wangchuk, the capital cost for infrastructure per litre is Rs 0.0025. He further stated that 30metre high ice stupa can hold 15 million liters of water that are enough to irrigate 50 hectare area. Also there is not much of a maintenance cost as once set up they run by themselves .Only the capital expenditure is vested towards purchase of pipes.

Wangchuk even announced that the prize money would be used to build a university to attract more funds. According to him, the university aims to provide solutions to many problems faced by mountain people. You can watch the concept of ice stupas in the video demonstration by wangchuk.

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