(CNN) Within the far north of India, the cold mountain desert is the spectacular backdrop to an unprecedented icy framework.
It is a land of extremes, where rain fall is scarce and temperatures variety wildly from torrid to considerably below freezing.
The particular locals say
it is the only place in the world where a guy, sitting in the sun with his feet within the shade, can suffer sunstroke plus frostbite at the same time.
It is the Ladakh region — meaning “land of high passes” — sandwiched among two of the world’s tallest hill ranges, the Himalayas and the Kunlun.
Rain fall is rare here. Water, important for irrigating the farmlands that are the particular lifeblood of the local population, mainly comes from melting snow and ice.
But climate alter is making this land even drier
, leaving farmers without water within the crucial planting months of 04 and May, right before the glaciers begin to melt in the summer sun.
One man’s solution to the issue? Make more glaciers.
The “Ice Stupa”
Within 2014 a local mechanical engineer, Sonam Wangchuk, set out to solve the water problems of the Ladakh.
The natural glaciers, which are diminishing due to rising global temperatures, as a result they provide far less water in early springtime but then release a lot in the summer high temperature, shrinking even more.
Wangchuk had a simple concept: he wanted to balance this organic deficit by collecting water through melting snow and ice in the cold several weeks, which would normally go to waste, plus store it until spring, simply when farmers need it the most.
“I once noticed ice under a bridge in May plus understood that it’s the sun that makes the particular ice melt, not ambient temperatures, ” he told CNN.
“I realized that snow can last a long time, even at lower altitudes. ”
He then build a two-story prototype of the “ice stupa”, a cone associated with ice that he named after the conventional mound-like sacred monuments that are discovered throughout Asia.
Why the cone?
The ice stupa is created making use of no power or pumps, just physics: “the ingredients are a downstream, an upstream and a gradient, inch says Wangchuk.
First, a pipe is placed underground, connecting a stream associated with water and the location where the glaciers stupa is required, usually next to the village. The water must come from an increased altitude, usually around 60 metres or more.
Just because a fluid in a system always desires to maintain its level, water from sixty meters upstream will spray sixty meters into the air out of the downstream pipe, creating a fountain.
The freezing air heat does the rest, immediately crystallizing water droplets into ice that drops right below, forming a cone.
“A cone is very easy to make with glaciers, because any dripping naturally types a cone underneath — icicles are inverted cones, ” states Wangchuk.
Yet a cone has more desirable attributes: “It has minimal exposed area for the volume of water it contains. inch
That means this melts very slowly: the model, 20 feet tall and that contains 150, 000 liters of drinking water, lasted from winter until mid-May, just when water is needed to get irrigation, while all the surrounding glaciers on the ground had gone by the end of Mar.
Last ice standing
The revolutionary aspect of the particular ice stupa is that it works actually at low altitude and in extremely warm temperatures.
It’s not the first type of synthetic glacier in the area, but previous efforts in this area were only attempted over 13, 000 feet (or four, 000 meters) by freezing seas in large canals which necessary shade and a lot of maintenance, and had been located too far away from the areas to be practical.
Instead, the conical shape of the particular ice stupa can withstand actually direct sunlight and it can sit correct were the water is required.
However , they are not maintenance-free: “Currently they need a lot of manual intervention: the particular fountains can freeze when the plumbing ice up, things like that, inch says Wangchuk.
He hopes that soon, simply by refining the technology, the stupas will become more reliable. That’s why he will start testing in Peru come early july, taking advantage of an extra winter in the the southern part of hemisphere.
“We are at a stage much like motor cars in the 1950s, when motorists had to often open the hood and fix things. Nowadays the driving force doesn’t even know what’s within the bonnet, we are moving towards that will, ” he says.
“In the meantime, we can develop trees where trees would never develop because the land was too dried out. ”
A crowdfunding energy
Just how much does it cost to build an snow stupa?
Due to the piping infrastructure required, the initial purchase can be steep. Wangchuck estimated he’d need around $125, 000 to create his first full-scale version, that could reach 80 feet in height and supply irrigation to about 10 hectares of land: “It was as well radical for any government to support, yet I knew the people of the entire world would back it, ” he admits that.
He made a decision to crowdfund the project, asking individuals for contributions through Indiegogo, a well known crowdfunding platform. The campaign
was successful and piqued the eye of the local institutions: “Now how the idea has been proven, the Ladhaki government is incorporating it the development plans. ”
The ice stupa furthermore netted Wangchuk a Rolex Award meant for Enterprise in 2016
, which usually carried a 100, 000 Switzerland Franc prize (around $105, 000).
But Wangchuk also dreams of turning the stupas into tourist attractions, by building ice pubs and ice hotels inside them: “It will be an exclusive experience for people who are prepared to pay for it, and the money will assistance the water for the farmers eliminating the particular shortage in the spring, which is exactly what every farmer fears, ” he admits that.
This might audio a bit like mixing the holy and the profane, but Wangchuk considers the ice stupa itself is really a bridge between different cultures.
“We wanted to incorporate traditional practices and beliefs along with innovative technology, because climate modify cannot be handled by engineering solely, ” he says.
“We have to join forces. ”