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Ice Stupa Stamp

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    28th Mar, 2019

The Chief Postmaster General, Jammu & Kashmir Circle released a ‘Special Stamp Cover on Ice Stupa’ during a function organised at the Ice Stupa site at Gangles in Leh.


The Chief Postmaster General, Jammu & Kashmir Circle released a ‘Special Stamp Cover on Ice Stupa’ during a function organised at the Ice Stupa site at Gangles in Leh.


More on news

  • Over 12 villages in Ladakh have built ice Stupas this year to create awareness about depleting glaciers and effect on the ecology around the Himalayas.
  • Ramon Magsaysay and Rolex award winner Sonam Wangchuk conceptualised this technique of water conservation.

Why Ice Stupas?

  • Ladakh is a trans-Himalayan mountain desert in the extreme north of India with villages located at 2,700m to 4,000m altitudes.
  • It is a cold desert with winter temperatures touching -30° C, and an average annual rain/snow fall of only 100 mm.
  • Human settlements are almost always located around glacial streams which feed into the Indus and other rivers as tributaries.
  • The key to human settlement in this cold desert is the art of diverting water from the streams through meticulously built canals toward deserts to grow crops like barley, wheat, vegetables and trees like apricots, apples, willow and poplar.
  • Most villages face acute water shortage, particularly during the two crucial months of April and May when there is little water in the streams and all the villagers compete to water for their newly planted crops.
  • By mid-June there is an excess of water and even flash flooding due to the fast melting of the snow and glaciers in the mountains.
  • By mid-September all farming activities end, and yet a smaller stream flows throughout the winter steadily but wastefully going into the Indus River without being of use to anybody.
  • The problem is getting worse with time as Himalayan glaciers are disappearing due to global warming and local pollution.

Ice Stupa Project

  • The Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) Alternative Institute are making the ice stupa from artificial glaciers which store the wasting winter water in the form of Ice Mountains that melt and feed the farms when water is most needed by the farmers.
  • This project has been initiated by His Holiness Drikung Skyabgon Chetsang Rinpochey and executed in partnership with SECMOL.
  • To provide a platform for further innovations, the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, (HIAL) has been established which has mandate to create Ice Stupas across the Ladakh region.


  • The concept of artificial glaciers is not new to Ladakh. In earlier times people in the region used to have a process of ‘grafting glaciers' in the very high reaches of mountains.
  • The idea behind artificial glaciers is to freeze and hold the water that keeps flowing and wasting away down the streams and into the rivers throughout the winter.
  • However, since these are based on horizontal ice formation, they need very high altitude locations (above 4,000m), constant maintenance and a north-facing valley to shade the ice from the spring sun.
  • Seeing these problems and after discussions with Mr Norphel Sonam Wangchuk started working on a new approach in which the glaciers would be free of location, frequent maintenance and shading requirement etc.
  • In the new model, this is achieved by freezing the stream water vertically in the form of huge ice towers or cones of 30 to 50m height that look very similar to the local sacred mud structures called Stupa or Chorten.
  • These ice mountains can be built right next to the village itself where the water is needed. Very little effort or investment would be needed except for laying one underground pipeline from a higher point on the stream to the outskirts of the village.

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