Chewang Norphel – Glacier man who saved farming in Ladakh

Glacier check dam

In 1996, Norphel joined the Leh Nutritional Institute and started constructing artificial glaciers in numerous small and plain villages of Ladakh. The locations were carefully chosen to make sure that the glaciers didn’t melt until April when farmers required a constant supply of fresh water for sowing. After the artificial glaciers were introduced, the agricultural production increased by two to three times and the local economy began showing signs of recovery.

Norphel got a lot of prestigious awards for his work. The largest glacier he made measures around 1,000 ft long, 4 ft in depth and 150 ft wide. His artificial glaciers also offer other advantages. The glaciers can be constructed at one fourth the price of a cement reservoir. Also, they are built using local materials and can be maintained by villagers with ease. Due to these advantages, a lot of countries invited him to teach them how to build the artificial glaciers.

Norphel was diagnosed with a heart condition and he was strictly asked by doctors to avoid any pressure. At present, he is recovering in Jammu because the weather in Leh is too harsh for him and he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to give the same attention to his project ever. However, he has trained people to go on with his work.
Norphel’s story proves that everyone can help change the lives of other people. His glaciers are the proof of his determination to make the lives of others better.

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