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Tuesday 24 April 2007

Artificial glaciers to meet water crisis in Ladakh

New Delhi, April 13 (PTI): For those in the plains they may be just another of nature's wonders but for the people in Ladakh glaciers mean life as they are the only source of water for daily as well as farm use.
Now retired, 67 year-old civil engineer Chewang Norphel, always wanted to rid the people of nagging worries on scarce water supply.
"I realised that all the problems of the region were related to water, which was scarce in most areas," says Norphel who goes by the nickname "Glacier Man." He was recently in Delhi to accept an award from the Limca book of records for his achievements.
The idea of 'artificial glacier' came from the simple observation that in winter taps were left open to stop the water freezing in pipelines. The water flowed into the drains surrounding the taps and froze.
"And it is then that it occurred to me: why not try and make artificial glaciers in the vicinity of the village so that local farmers get a real headstart when they need it most," says Norphel.
Norphel now has been credited with building over 10 artificial glaciers in Ladakh which came as an blessing for the locals who rely on the natural glaciers for irrigation and other daily chores.
"Ladakh falls in the rain-shadow area of Himalayas, where the annual average rainfall seldom exceeds 50 mm", says Norphel adding that the only water source is that from the glaciers which melt in summer releasing only a little water that is used by locals for irrigating their crops.
For over 15 years, Norphel has been building 'artificial glaciers' to make life a little easier for the hard-working but terribly poverty-stricken farmers of Ladakh.
This water shortage is more acutely felt during the summer months, between March/April and June. Any delay in sowing the crop rules out an October harvest, as it does not mature in time to beat the harsh winter.
"The glaciers begin melting only after July so the short sowing season sometimes begins and ends before the bulk of water is made available through the melting of natural glaciers," says Norphel.
Norphel's technique uses a network of pipes to capture and channel precious snowmelt that would otherwise be wasted.
Using some local ingenuity, Norphel built his 'artificial glacier' from stone embankments and a few hundred metres of iron pipe. First, water from an existing stream was diverted through iron pipes to a shady area of the valley.
From there, the water was made to flow out onto a sloping hill at regular intervals along the mountain slope.
Small stone embankments impede the flow of water, creating shallow pools. During the winter, as temperatures drop steadily, the water in these small pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a long, thin glacier.
The glacier man says artificial glaciers score over a natural one in several ways. "It is closer to the village and at a comparatively lower altitude. Also, the early release of water comes as a bonus for farmers as they are able to get water a whole month before the snow starts melting," he says adding that this is particularly useful for them to start sowing.
The largest artificial glacier Norphel has so far built is near the village of Phuktsey.
Standing tall at 300 metres and with a width of 45 metres it goes one metre deep into the earth it supplies irrigation water to the entire village of around 700 people.
"The glacier was built at a cost of about Rs 90,000, which is about a tenth of what it would have cost to build a reservoir with similar storage capacity," he says.
The technology has gained popularity amongst the local populace as it is effective, simple, affordable and uses local resources and skills.
"The villagers can understand this," Norphel says. "This is optimum utilisation of water by using the simplest technique, at a low cost. It also helps recharge groundwater and nearby springs."
As more and more glaciers are being constructed all over Ladakh, the stretch of barren land under cultivation is shooting up providing better benefits for the region's communities.
Apart from glaciers solar buildings and green houses in the valley are other projects that have captured the intrest and involvemet of Norphel.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Zarzameen-e-Man, a tribute to our Hazara and Afghan brothers...

Srinagar - Leh road opening this month

After having been closed for about 6 monthes, Srinagar - Leh highway should open after a dozen of days; Zoji-la being cleared these days. For more details, see http://www.dailyexcelsior.com
Manali - Leh road shouldn't however open before the end of May.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

A journey on frozen river

KARGIL, Apr 10:With the melting of 157-km- long frozen surface of river ‘‘Chadar" following improvement in the weather, the people in Zanaskar remained cut off with the rest of the world.

"We use the frozen surface of the river to reach Leh after covering the 157-long distance in five days," a resident of the Zanaskar Ghulam Rasool said.

However, on some occasions it takes more than a week or two, depending upon the weather, as the surface gets frozen only when the temperature dips to minus six to ten degrees, he said.

Ghulam Rasool said the main 332-km-long Kargil-Zanaskar road gets closed in November every year due to 15 to 20 feet snow and reopens only in the last week of May.

Along with five other residents of Zanaskar, I arrived at Leh in the first week of February through the frozen river,’’ he said adding "it was very risky too. We had no alternative but to use the river to Leh," he added.

However, he said, the authorities have decided to operate M-17 Indian Airforce Helicopter between Zanaskar and Leh and Kargil on every Thursday. But, he said, due to bad weather the service mostly remained suspended.

Sharing his experience about the journey on foot on frozen surface, he said, "five others and I left Zanaskar for Leh through the frozen river. However, when we had completed two-thirds of the journey, suddenly the frozen surface melted," he said adding "we had to wait for three days till it got frozen again."

Mostly people leave Zanaskar or Leh in groups with a stock of eatables for ten to 15 days. There are natural caves on the banks of the river which are being used for night halt, he said adding "on some occasions we have to remain in caves till the surface refreezes again."

Ghulam Rasool said he could not undertake the return journey through the river in the second week of last month as the frozen surface had melted following improvement in the weather.

He said there is not a single village on the bank of the river.

Official sources said that there are 60 Zanaskar bound passengers stranded at Kargil since March 25. Similarly another 40 are stranded at Leh.

They said 30 passengers, including students and a businessman are stranded at Zanaskar.

The 332-km-long Kargil-Zanaskar road remained under 15 to 20 feet snow during the winter. However, authorities had stored essential commodities, including rice, atta, sugar, kerosene oil, medicines and gas cylinders at Zanaskar before the road was closed on November 27 last year due to snowfall.

The Executive Councilor of Hill Development Council, Tourism P Namgyal said a helicopter service has been arranged for stranded passengers. However, it depends upon the weather condition.

Monday 9 April 2007

Leh NH to re-open this month

KARGIL, Apr 8: The 434-km Srinagar-Leh National Highway is likely to re-open for vehicular traffic in the last week of April in view of the significant improvement in weather conditions in the region in the recent past, a Defence official said today.
Lt Col Yogesh Chandra of GREF’s 93 Road Construction Company said the snow clearance work all along the highway, closed in November last year, was going on in full swing.
The project beacon of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has pressed its men and machinery into service to clear the road.
Lt Col Chandra said up to 30-km road from Drass to Mina Marg has been cleared. "And if weather permits, the highway will be thrown open for vehicular traffic in the last week of April," he added.