Sonam Wangchuk

2016 Laureate, Environment
Ladakh, Born 1966

Project Goal

Build/develop artificial glaciers to supply irrigation water in the Trans-Himalayan cold deserts 

Location: Ladakh

“I saw that there was ice under the bridge, which at 3000 m was the warmest and lowest altitude in the whole area, and this was in May. So I thought – we can keep ice right here in Phey if we protect it from the sun.”

In the arid highlands of the Himalayas, water is scarce and farmers often face acute seasonal shortages to grow their crops, which are becoming worse as the climate warms. Ladakhi engineer Sonam Wangchuk has devised a clever solution that involves freezing the huge seasonal outflows of glacial meltwater into simple conical mounds resembling local religious structures that he calls “ice stupas”. Due to their shape, these cones behave like mini-glaciers that melt slowly in spring, releasing millions of litres of water over the critical planting season and helping to ease local food and water scarcity under climate change. Wangchuk is also developing a crowdfunded alternative university campus to train mountain youth in eco-solutions for mountain climates.  He believes that the world’s mountain people are not only ethnic and linguistic minorities but also climatic and technological minorities, hence their problems cannot be solved in New Delhi or New York.


ice stupas, each supplying 10 million litres of water that Wangchuk plans to create

Other 2016 Laureates