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'Glacier man' solves Ladakh's water problems


Pawan Bali,CNN-IBN
Aug 31, 2007 at 11:16am IST

Ladakh: To a traveler, Ladakh is a place of immense natural beauty. But to the people who live in the place, it is a cold desert where survival depends on careful use of sparse natural resources including water.

However, a man is making a huge difference in the lives of the Ladakhis.

Chewang Norphel fondly known as a glacier man is a retired civil engineer, who figured out a way to trap the waters that melt down the high mountains.

He turns them into chunks of ice or artificial glaciers, which in the summer irrigate the water-starved fields.

"Whenever I visited the villages, the people complained of shortage of water. I had to think day and night. Ladakh is very cold during the winters so one day we took advantage of the winters and came up with the idea of storing water in the form of ice,” says Norphel.

Norphel is very familiar with the problems that Ladakh faces. There are little or no rains in Ladakh.

Besides that, the villages are perched at a height and the rivers are too low. And also, the high glaciers melt in June, but the sowing period starts months before.

"Fifty to 60 years back we used to have huge glaciers here. They have been reduced now. They are on high peaks. Glaciers start melting in June. But we want water in April and May. Artificial glacier are on low altitude and near the villages so people get water at the right time,” says Norphel.

The first glacier was created in Phuktse Pho village in 1987 and six more followed after that.

All of them were constructed with simple stone embankments at the cost of 60,000 to 90,000. It was simplicity that changed many lives.

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