That chance observation helped Norphel find a solution that would considerably mitigate the water woes of the region.
Water scarcity is an acute problem in Ladakh, where 80 percent of the population relies on farming. The region receives very low rainfall (about 50 mm a year on average) and locals rely on the water from the melting glaciers during the summer months to irrigate their fields. However, global warming has meant that natural glaciers are receding.
Looking at the pit of frozen water made Norphel, a civil engineer, wonder if there was any way to create an artificial glacier that would provide people with water.
When I met him most recently — it was after a gap of a few years — his rooms were filled with awards. I gently ribbed him about soon needing a bigger space to store all of them. In response, Norphel showed me a new room in his house — with a big wardrobe that is currently being made.
Here’s a look at Norphel’s life and work: