The “Ice Stupas” That Could Water the Himalaya

Artificial glaciers are being used to grow crops in the harsh desert.

High in the Himalaya, a desert is turning green.

Climate change in the Indian region of Ladakh has shrunk glaciers and made rainfall and temperatures unpredictable. Water is needed to irrigate the fields of barley, apples, and other crops in spring, but the glacial melt doesn’t arrive until summer. To spare farmers a barren yield, engineer Sonam Wangchuk has invented a way to bring the glaciers to the people.

In 2015, with $125,000 raised on a crowdfunding site, Wangchuk built a 64-foot-tall “ice stupa”—an artificial glacier made by piping mountain streams into a Ladakhi village. The water spouts geyser-like from a vertical pipe, freezing into a cone of ice shaped like a Buddhist shrine. It’s designed to stay frozen until the spring sun warms the fields.

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