Chewang Norphel: The "Ice-Man" From Ladakh | Milaap

Chewang Norphel: The "Ice-Man" From Ladakh

For most part of the winter season, a small region like Ladakh is cut off from the rest of India due to heavy snowfall while in summer you will notice Ladakh becomes a tourist destination for adventurous travelers. But life isn’t easy for the communities living in this cold region, the only source of water for them is the glacier water from mountains. These glaciers melt in summer and is used all round the year for day to day purposes. Hope came  to the communities of Ladakh in the form of a man and his innovative idea to create artificial glaciers. The best ideas are often built on the foundations of simplicity. Mr. Chewang Norphel’s idea of creating artificial glaciers certainly falls in this category.9A civil engineer from Lucknow, Norphel joined the department of Rural Development of Jammu Kashmir in early 60’s. His idea of artificial glaciers was born when he realized how crucial water was for the communities in this region.While working in rural development, Chewang noticed how water was freezing in thin iron pipes. And this idea sparked the idea of building artificial dams.
The method involves channeling glacier water to the shadow area of a mountain, away from sunlight. Then half inch wide iron pipes are placed perpendicular to the edge of the depression where this water collects. On seeping into the thin iron pipes, the water freezes. As more water seeps in, the frozen blocks are pushed out. This cycle continues and on the other side a neat, artificial glacier emerges. This technique has given a much needed boost to agriculture in the region. Earlier due to shortfall of water the farmers were forced to migrate to cities and look for alternative employment. As the natural glaciers were far from the inhabited areas and melted slowly in summers, it took quite some time for the water to reach the villages. Norphel’s efforts have connected water closer to the villages. These will also help recharge the groundwater besides rejuvenating spring water. 7Norphel feels that artificial glaciers are better alternatives to dams. Dams are environmental and social problems as well as drain financial resources. His artificial glaciers on the other hand are created at the fraction of the cost of building a dam.His idea and its implementation have greatly benefited Ladakh and Norphel has received many citations and felicitations for his pioneering work in this field. His idea has been praised all over the world. Story Courtesy: Youth LeaderTo tell your stories of changes write to us at or sign up with us now.