Chewang Norphel, civil engineer from Ladakh, India. For his whole life, Norphel has been living in a “land of high passes”, situated near major glaciers, and they became his true inspiration for innovations in water conversation. Back in 1987, Norphel invented artificial glaciers and started constructing massive dams in order to efficiently use the water gathered from melting ice. Being simple and low-cost projects, these inventions have changed lives of even the most skeptical farmers. 30 years ago, Norphel was laughed at and never taken seriously, but today he stands in front of the camera as a proud citizen, and a real climate hero.
In 1996, Norphel joined the Leh Nutrition Project, a non-governmental organisation, as project manager for watershed development.
Norphel noticed a small stream had frozen solid under the shade of a group of poplar trees, though it flowed freely elsewhere in his yard. He realized the reason for this phenomenon: the flowing water was moving too quickly to freeze, while the sluggish trickle of water beneath the trees was slow enough to freeze. Based on this, he created artificial glaciers by diverting a river into a valley, slowing the stream by constructing checks. The artificial glaciers increase the ground-water recharge, rejuvenating the spring and providing water for irrigation. He constructed them at lower elevations, so that they melt earlier, expanding the growing season.
By 2012, Norphel had built 12 artificial glaciers. Norphel's largest glacier is the one at the Phuktsey village. It is 1,000 ft long, 150 ft wide and 4 ft in depth. It can supply water for the entire village of 700 people and cost Rs 90,000 to make.