A retired Indian engineer, Chewang Norphel, 76, has built 12 new glaciers already and is racing to create five more before he dies, and by then he hopes to train enough new ‘icemen’ to continue the work he is doing to save the world’s ‘third icecap’ from being transformed into rivers, reports Telegraph.
His race against time is shared by Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, who called on the region’s Himalayan nations, including China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, to constitute a united front to tackle glacial melting.
The Himalayan glaciers, including Kashmir’s Siachen glacier, feed the region’s most important rivers, as they irrigate farm lands in Tibet, Nepal and Bangladesh and throughout the Indian subcontinent. The acceleration in glacial melting has been blamed as the reason for the increase in floods that have destroyed homes and crops.
But Chewang Norphel, the “Iceman of Ladakh”, believes that he has an answer.
By diverting melt water through a network of pipes into artificial lakes in the shaded side of mountain valleys, Norphel states that he has created new glaciers.
A dam or embankment is built to keep the water in, which freezes at night and remains frozen in the absence of direct sunlight. This water remains frozen until March, when the start of summer melts the new glacier and releases the water into the rivers downside.
His glaciers have been able to each store up to one million cubic feet of ice, which in turn can irrigate 200 hectares of farm land. This can make the difference between crop failure and a bumper crop of more than 1,000 tons of wheat for the farmers.
Norphel says that he has seen the effects of global warming on farmland as snows have become thinner on the ground and ice rivers have melted away.
His work has now been recognized by the Indian government, which has given him 16,000 pounds to build five new glaciers. But time is his enemy, he told The Hindustan Times. “I’m planning to train villagers with instruction CDs that I have made, so that I can pass on the knowledge before I die,” he said.