Can Artificial Glaciers Help Solve the Himalaya Water Crisis?


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.

Discussion Ideas

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Use our MapMaker Interactive layers to better understand how elevation, climate, and precipitation influence the environment of Ladakh, India.


  • 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’.”




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

The Ice Stupa Project

Nat Geo: Where are the ice stupas of India? map

Nat Geo: What is a glacier? reference resource

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