Engineers hope that when the man-made sculptures melt, they will provide water in times of need. (BBC)
How do communities rely on glaciers?
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit Text Set, including today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map.
- The BBC article and video outline one solution to the “water crisis in the Himalaya.” Why does the Himalaya, the most high-altitude region on Earth, have a water crisis?
- The Indian region of Ladakh, the area experimenting with artificial glaciers, “is a desert at 10,000 feet, receiving on average just 50mm of rainfall each year.”
- Researchers think “Himalayan glaciers are shrinking more quickly than any on earth. Less water is reaching Ladakh’s farms and villages, and when it does, the volume of water from the faster-melting glaciers can break the banks of streams, causing floods.”
- Watch the BBC video above. How are engineers creating artificial glaciers in Ladakh?
- In the middle of the night, at the height of winter, engineers lay pipes below the frost line to channel water from glacial streams. The water is pumped directly into the -20°Celsius (-4°Fahrenheit) air, where it freezes in icicles around a conical frame of wire and tree branches.
- In spring, the conical glacier melts, and its water can be directed to facilities for drinking, hygiene, industry, or (mostly) drip-irrigation of crops.
- Why are the artificial glaciers nicknamed “ice stupas”?
- A stupa is a place of Buddhist meditation or worship. Stupas are a familiar part of the built environment of the Himalaya, where Buddhism is a dominant religion. Stupas have a conical or pointed-hemisphere shape.
- The stupa shape is crucial for the success of the artificial glaciers. “The conical shape hit a sweet spot,” for the engineers, “maximising the volume of ice that can be ‘grown’, while minimising the surface area exposed to direct sunlight. That means it keeps melting well into the spring, releasing up to 5,000 litres of water each day by ‘storing it in the sky’.”
- Is Ladakh’s artificial glacier technology being used anywhere else?
- Yes. Engineer Sonam Wangchuk is working with Swiss officials to combat rapid icemelt in the Alps.
TEACHERS TOOLKIT TEXT SET
BBC: Can ice stupas solve a Himalayan water crisis?
The Guardian: The ice stupas of Ladakh: solving water crisis in the high desert of Himalaya
Nat Geo: The “Ice Stupas” That Could Water the Himalaya
Nat Geo: Where are the ice stupas of India? map
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