Keeping things cool


Icon2Three-quarters of Himalayan glaciers are disappearing. As they go, so do the rivers of meltwater that half a billion people depend on every spring to irrigate their crops. Disappointed by the underperforming glaciers in his native Ladakh, India, Chewang Norphel decided to build his own.

“Forty years ago, things here began to change. Snowfalls decreased, the glaciers receded, and in the sowing season there was no longer enough water. There was still plenty during the winter months, however, and if that could somehow be harnessed and preserved as ice, the problem would be solved. People have harnessed the sun, the wind and water. Why not ice, especially here in Ladakh where the weather is so cold?

“I realized that by reducing the speed of running water during the cold winter months and diverting it to shadowy areas on the mountain slopes I could create artificial glaciers. We used locally available material and worked by hand. The villagers themselves maintained the artificial glaciers. It’s a community model, the way nature would like.

“I have built 10 glaciers† so far. It’s like making ice in your refrigerator and using it when you need it. Initially not many took notice of my idea, though with the increasing concern about climate change many more are appreciating my efforts. But I am getting old. Someone must take over and continue my work, and if the mountaintop glaciers disappear then even this system will not work.

“My greatest fear is that we will wake up too late and find ourselves in a severe drought, as is described in Buddhist beliefs, where all the plants and animals have disappeared from the planet and only a few men survive, collecting bones of dead people to make into soup.”Footnotes

† Icy glaciers reflect 80% of the sunlight that hits them, helping to slow global warming. But once they start to melt, exposed patches of earth absorb almost all that heat.


How to make a glacierInfo

Glaciers contain 70 percent of the fresh, drinkable water on our planet. Build your own and never be thirsty. Start in winter by diverting a river towards the shadowy side of a mountain. Channel the water slowly into a pool you’ve built and watch it turn to ice. Before spring comes, build a conduit to carry the water into your backyard. As the ice melts, you’ll have your own, personal, freshwater spring.


Other ways to get water

Condense steam

Diy01-2In Kenya, Masai communities living in the vicinity of the Mount Suswa volcano place long plastic pipes by the steam vents. The vapor condenses inside the pipes and is then drip-fed into large drums.

Catch fog

Diy02Only 1.5 centimeters of rain falls on Bellavista, Peru, each year, but every morning, 2,500 liters of water are collected using special nets that trap moisture from the fog that rolls in off the Pacific Ocean.

Elephant pumps

Diy03Elephant pumps are devices used in Zimbabwe and Malawi to draw water to the surface from up to 40 meters underground. Pedal hard to reach the optimum water speed of one meter per second.

Go for a walk

Diy04By tying a long rag around both ankles, then walking through grass at dawn, Australian Aborigines can collect as much as a liter of water. Morning dew soaks the fabric, and is then drained into a container.


From the pages of COLORS #84 - APOCALYPSE.