Millions of farmers around the world depend on glacial run-off to irrigate their crops. But what happens when the glaciers disappear?
The people of Ladakh are already facing this challenge. About 80 percent of Ladakhis rely on water from glacial melting to irrigate their crops. But today, most of the low-level glaciers that were near the Himalayan villages of north India have already melted due to climate change.
The Christian Science Monitor recently profiled the efforts of Chhewang Norphel, a local engineer who started building artificial glaciers to help farmers have a reliable source of irrigation. Building artificial glaciers is surprisingly simple, the Monitor reports: "Chhewang diverts the unneeded autumn and winter runoff into a series of large, rock-lined holding ponds. As the days grow colder, the ponds freeze and interconnect into a growing glacier." This icy reservoir melts in early June, just in time to water the new crops.
But Chhewang's efforts aren't a long-term solution for the farmers in Ladakh, writes the Monitor. Man-made glaciers need to be restocked from glaciers high up in the Himalayas. If these glaciers melt, there will be no way for Ladakhi farmers to water their crops and the land could become barren.