Ladakhi genius brings greenery to cold deserts through Ice Stupas

Having bagged the prestigious Rolex award, Sonam Wangchuk’s achievements are much beyond the inspiring character played by Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots

For those who correlate Stupa with a dome-shaped structure of Buddhist shrines alone, this engineer-turned- educational reformer is redefining the world through his genius. Through his latest innovation, Ice Stupa is bringing greenery in the cold deserts in his native Ladakh and even abroad, something that has fetched him the globally acclaimed Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2016.

Sonam Wangchuk, a 50-year-old innovator, says Ice Stupa is an artificial glacier which stores “wasting water” in the form of ice-mountains that melt and feed the farms when water is most needed by farmers. Access to water for cultivation has been a challenge in Ladakh, a trans-Himalayan mountain desert, located in the extreme north of India at 2,700m to 4,000m altitudes.

As per Wangchuk, the key to human settlement in this cold desert is the art of diverting water from the streams through meticulously built canals towards deserts to grow crops and trees. But when fields and orchards need irrigation, the streams are running dry. And, this is where his innovation comes into play.

The Ice Stupa project proved to be a success after two years of experiments at Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), the school run by Wangchuk, where he “wants to make learning fun and practical without having the children bogged down with the burden of rote learning.”

Before his ongoing trip to the US, Wangchuk was busy sharing the Ice-Stupa expertise with international teams.
He talks about this in his social media post. “SIKKIM COMES TO LADAKH: While ice stupa goes to Switzerland, Sikkim came to Ladakh for artificial glaciers… A team of 14 officers and scientists from Sikkim government came to Leh for a five-day exposure.”