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Ladakh is one such place in India that leaves us awestruck, so do the people! Chewang Norphel is one such name that has created wonders in the beautiful land of Ladakh. He is also known as “Ice Man of India” because he has created more than 15 artificial glaciers in Ladakh.

He is an 81 years old civil engineer who is currently working for the welfare of Ladakh. Coming from a middle-class family, Norphel never compromised with his education and made it his priority. He was a student of Amar Singh College in Srinagar of science stream. Thereafter, he went to Lucknow for his further studies and completed his diploma in civil engineering in 1960 from Lucknow. After completing his diploma in 1960, he returned to Ladakh and joined the rural development department of Jammu & Kashmir in Ladakh. After working for 35 years in this department, in 1995 he took an early retirement due to health issues. During his service period he has constructed major dams, roads and schools in Zanskar, a small place in Ladakh.  Construction in Zanskar was a challenging task because of the lack of skilled labor, so, he also trained the native of Zanskar for help.
“It gave me a great pleasure. I was happy to see that a little support from my side had changed their lives,” Norphel said.

The Ice Man Of India - Chewang Norphel - Newagekashmir

He was a keen observer and a problem solver.
As, Ladakh faces very limited rainfall (about 50mm) in the whole year. So the local farmers suffered from shortage of water during the cropping season. As a native of Ladakh, it was painful for Norphel seeing the people of Ladakh struggling with the need of water.  In 1996, while working on a non-government project- leh Nutrition project, he came up
with the idea of building Artificial Glaciers for water conservation.  His idea was very new to the people of Ladakh and people were not convinced by this concept. People took his idea as a joke but he proved them wrong. Today, he is known as the “ice man” because he believed in his concept and created more than 15 artificial glaciers.

As they say, worked hard in silence and let success make the noise.
The Ice Man Of India - Chewang Norphel - Newagekashmir” The idea of Artificial glaciers came to Chewang Norphel’s mind, when he saw that water dripping from tap froze after coming in contact with the ground. Putting this idea, he conserved the water that melted from glaciers during winters through underground pipes. Those underground pipes are connected through steep valley which helped the water to flow. The pipes are kept in the form of fountains near villages, coming in contact with -20 degree air the water that comes from the pipe freezes and hence form the artificial glacier. While on the other hand he made canals and diverted the stream of water so that it could be supplied to all nearby villages. His hard work and engineering skills successfully gave birth to first artificial glacier.”

The Ice Man Of India - Chewang Norphel - Newagekashmir
The idea was to keep the glaciers very close to the village so that farmers could get the required amount of water during the sowing season. He initiated his project in Phutske village in Ladakh. The height of these glaciers were kept at low heights as compared to the natural glaciers so that the artificial ones could melt quickly. His largest artificial glacier is at Phutske village whose height is 1,000ft, 150 meters wide and 4ft in depth. This artificial glacier can supply water to the entire village. The cost of construction for this glacier was about INR 90,000.

The Ice Man Of India - Chewang Norphel - Newagekashmir
Chewang Norphel set an example for the people around the world, and proved that concrete ideas and determination to work for it, can simply change everything. He was also awarded by Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 2010 and Padma Shri in 2015. He got a new identity and became an example for the people of Jammu & Kashmir. All we can say about him is that he found himself when he lost himself in the service of others.