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Why are Ice Stupas being built?

Stupas are mound like or dome-shaped or hemispherical structure erected as Buddhist shrine. Similarly, stupa made up of ice and erected like dome is known as Ice Stupa. How Ice Stupa’s are built, what is the significance of Ice Stupa etc. Let us study through this article.
Apr 25, 2019 17:58 IST
    Why are Ice Stupas being built?

    As we know that the Indian department of Post has released a 'special stamp cover on Ice Stupa'. Its aim is to create awareness about depleting glaciers and affect the ecology around the Himalayas. It is seen that in Ladakh several villages have built Ice Stupas.

    Let us study why are Ice Stupas being built?

    Ladakh is a trans-Himalayan mountain desert in the extreme north of India with villages located at 2700 m to 4000 m altitudes. It is a cold desert where winter temperature touches -30 degree Celsius and an average annual rain or snow fall of only 100mm. So, always around the glacial streams, human settlements are found which feed into the Indus and other rivers as tributaries.

    Let us tell you that human settlement able to survive as they know the art of diverting water from the streams through meticulously built canals toward deserts to grow crops like barley, wheat, vegetables, apricots etc.

    The idea behind making ice stupa from artificial glacier is that they can store this wasting winter water in the form of Ice Mountains that melt and feed the farms when water is most needed by the farmers.

    So, we can say that artificial glaciers is made to freeze and hold the water that keeps flowing and wasting away down the streams and into the rivers throughout the winters. This ice melts at the spring time when farmers need water for their fields.

    Do you know that the idea of Ice Stupa project was conceptualised by HIAL founder Sonam Wangchuk to reduce problems of Ladakh farmers in spring season.

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    How Ice Stupa looks?

    Source: www.aljazeera.com
    It looks like a huge ice towers or cones of 30 to 50m height that look similar to local mud structure known as Stupa or Chorten. This ice tower is generated by freezing the stream water vertically in the form of towers. Where water is needed these ice stupas can be built right next to the village itself. While constructing this stupa very little effort or investment is needed that is only one underground pipeline from a higher point on the stream to the outskirts of the village is required.

    Working of Ice Stupa

    Water always maintains its level. When pipe reaches the village, water piped from 60m upstream would easily rise close to 60m up from ground when it reaches the village. In cold Ladakhi winter in nights when temperature is around -30 to -50 degree Celsius, water is made to fall from the height. So, then it could freeze while it reaches the ground and slowly form a huge cone or Ice Stupa approximately 30 to 50m high. As per volume of water stored these ice cones extend vertically upwards towards the sun where they receive fewer of the sun's rays. Hence, they will take much longer time to melt as compared to an artificial glacier of the same volume formed horizontally on a flat surface.

    Significance of Ice Stupa

    Basically, it is a survival technique that has been developed over a period. Let us tell you that each stupa has a capacity to store at least 30-50 lakh litres of water. This is different from the naturally saved water in the slopes of the mountains.

    - Tapping water for irrigation

    - Winter water for drinking: As ice Stupa melt slowly and serves the purpose of drinking water during summers.

    - Saves Water: As discussed above in each Ice Stupa at least 30-50 lakh litres of water is saved.

    So, this is all about Ice Stupa. Hope you understand that Ice Stupa is a construction like Stupa in cone shape made up of ice which serves the purpose of drinking during summers, saves water and also help farmers in the irrigation.

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