Chewang Norphel is an Indian civil engineer who has built twelve artificial glaciers that has earned him the nickname Ice Man. In 1960, he finished a diploma course in civil engineering and in the same year joined Jammu and Kashmir’s rural development department as a civil engineer. Norphel retired in 1995.
Chewang Norphel – Glacier man who saved farming in Ladakh by building artificial glaciers
Chewang Norphel, also known as the glacier man, has built reservoirs close to villages situated in altitudes of about 13,000 ft, where water is collected from the melting snow during the summer season. In winter, this water freezes and becomes ice, making it an artificial glacier. This ice melts in April to give water for farmers in the sowing season.
Natural glaciers are found at higher altitudes (at around 18,000 ft) and require several weeks to melt and fill the streams with water. By then, it’s too late for the farmers to start sowing and obtain a complete harvest before the start of winter. Chewang Norphel was moved by their needs and wanted to help them.
Norphel, as an engineer in Jammu and Kashmir’s rural development department, analyzed the situation and tried to discover a solution. A few years later, he came up with the artificial glaciers. He believed that these glaciers would give fresh water to the cold and parched fields and change the lives of the farmers. He built his 1st artificial glacier close to Phuktse Phu village and this brought a lot of advantages to the villagers. They got a good harvest in the 1st year itself because of the accessibility of water in April.