Ice-stupa and climate hero from Ladakh

“My message to the world is act now. Before it’s too late” Chewang Norphel

I was watching Ladakh landscape from the roof of Thiksey monastery. River valley was green, but the rest was dusty desert. I thought that people should pray for the rain like in any other desert. I asked the guide if they have any special pray or ritual to ask for rain. He looked astonished to me. “We pray not to rain”. Than I was astonished. People from the desert don’t want the rain?

Himalayas is one of the most affected areas by global warming. People in cold desert, Ladakh, long time was getting water supply from frozen snow in winter and melting glacier in spring. Poorly, but they were able to do farming. Global warming, higher temperature and melting glaciers, caused two extremes. Last years Ladakh witnessed much erratic rainfall. Now people are living under a fear that extreme weather events will strike. The other extreme in Ladakh is draught. Glaciers are less and they are high in the mountain far from villagers and valleys, where they do farming. So, in spring there is a lack of water.

Kewang told: “<…> act now. Before it’s too late”. It is told, that first people were laughing from his idea, but now even biggest sceptics bow their heads. Kewang came up with this wonderful idea of artificial small glacier, known as Ice-Stupa now, that shows its importance to local people.

Chewang Norphel, also known as Ladakh Ice-man, till today day built 12 artificial glaciers. He got many followers, who are developing his project. Since 1996 Kewang is working with Leh Nutrition Project and was responsible for watershed development project. Finally, being 79 years old, Chewang Norphel can stand up in front of cameras and proudly tell what he has done. Meet the ice man from Ladakh !

How did Mr. Chewang Norpgel come up with this idea? I love this story and it reminds me Newton and his law of universal gravitation, which came into his head when falling apple bumped into his head. Chetang was watching small frozen water current, which was under the shadow of the trees. He realised that the running waters (melting) flows to fast to get frozen, while the sluggish trickle of water beneath the tress was slow enough to freeze. Than he though of making artificail glasciers. Glasciers are made from river current dvieting in to valley and slowing it down with artificial constructions. The artificial glaciers are made next to villages which suffers shortage of water. This project is cheap as well and do not do any side harm for nature.

Contraction, which slows down the current to make artificial glacier. Photo from iseeindia,com

If you asked me, who is worth of Nobel Prize, I would give Chewang Norpgel name.

This is how the idea develops. Watch video about Ice-Stupa project

Originally published at on February 21, 2017.

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