Making Barren Land Fruitful


How can barren land areas of Ladakh, a northern district of India, be made more productive? That was the question that occupied the mind of Tsewang Norphel, a retired civil engineer. The runoff from natural glaciers located high in the Himalaya Mountains begins in the month of June, not in April when rain is scanty and the farmers need water to irrigate their fields. Norphel came up with a clever answer: Build artificial glaciers at lower elevations, where the melting of the ice would begin earlier in the year.

According to the Indian newsmagazine The Week, Norphel and his team set out to divert a mountain stream into a 700-foot-long [200 m] man-made channel with 70 outlets. From these the water would flow at a slow and controlled rate down the mountain slope and freeze before reaching the retaining walls built on the lower part of the slope. The ice would gradually build up, eventually covering the walls. Being in the shadow of the mountain, the glacier would melt only when the temperature rises in April, supplying the water so very badly needed for irrigation at that time.

Did the idea of building an artificial glacier succeed? In fact, Norphel’s idea proved to be so practical that ten such glaciers have already been developed in Ladakh, and plans for more are under way. One such glacier, built at an elevation of 4,500 feet, yields some nine million gallons [34 million L] of water. And its cost? “Creating an artificial glacier takes approximately two months and costs Rs 80,000 [$1,860], most of it being labour costs,” says The Week.

Man’s ingenuity, when properly directed, can certainly prove to be beneficial. Just think what mankind will be able to accomplish under the direction of God’s heavenly Kingdom! The Bible promises: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. . . . In the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain.” (Isaiah 35:1, 6) What a delight it will be to have a share in the beautification of our earth!

[Picture Credit Lines on page 31]

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Arvind Jain, The Week Magazine