High in India's Himalayan region, Ladakh has long relied on melting glaciers to nourish the short growing season. Those glaciers have been receding and the climate increasingly erratic in recent decades, taking a growing toll on these isolated agrarian communities that cling to the vast mountainside.
Sonam Wangchuk, a prominent local educator, designed one solution with his students: ice stupas. These artificial glaciers are built using simple materials (and “high school physics and geometry”) during cold months.
Named after the Buddhist monuments that dot the landscape, the ice stupas can reach a height of a 10-story building and store millions of gallons of water that is ready to nourish the terraced fields as spring and the growing season commence. Elegant though they might be, they are a tiny, intermediate step in helping these isolated communities cope with a predicament they are not responsible for, says Wangchuk, imploring the outside world to “live more simply, so we may simply live.”
Under-Told Stories is a journalism project focused on consequences of poverty and the work of change agents addressing them. We produce content for highly respected news organizations, including PBS NewsHour, and, in collaboration with educators, engage students on pressing issues of our time. The project is based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.