Ladakh is a cold and arid area in the very north of India. To be able to grow crops during the summer months, the people living there are dependent on glacier water coming down the mountains. The last couple of decades, due to increased tourism and climate change, the conditions have changed and during April and May when the main crops need to grow, the water shortage has become a big problem.
A solution to this water shortage is the installation of artificial glaciers. By redirecting winter water and then store the water in the form of small ice mountains, so called ice stupas, the growing season can be extended with up to two months before the sufficient meltwater would otherwise arrive.
– Artificial glaciers make maximal use of existing water resources by storing and relocating glacial meltwater for irrigation, says Anshuman Bhardwaj, Associate Senior Lecturer of Atmospheric Science.
– Of course it’s not a long-term solution for the climate change problem in this area. The real glaciers are shrinking and when they are gone, the water will be gone. But here and now, science can really contribute to problems that this community is facing. The ice stupas are already there and doing what they are supposed to do, and now we have the opportunity to help.
Measurements and characterize snow
By using terrain data, satellite data and demographic data, the researchers from Luleå University of Technology are going to identify and evaluate probable sites for artificial glacier installation. The goal is to install several specially structured low-cost environmental monitoring stations, developed by the Atmospheric Science Group, in the area. All in different terrain and altitude conditions for year-round monitoring of meteorology and pollution.
In the university’s state-of-the-art snow lab they will also study the physical properties of snow to suggest engineering structures for making the artificial glaciers more sustainable and durable.
– Our aim is also to connect with the people in the area. We will organize seminars and workshops for community awareness on sustainable water security and make policy suggestions to the government agencies and for implementing our research findings, says Anshuman Bhardwaj.
In addition to representatives from the research group in Atmospheric Science, Anshuman Bhardwaj, Professor Javier Martín-Torres and Professor Maria-Paz Zorzano, Johan Casselgren, Associate Professor of Experimental Mechanics at Luleå University of Technology, and Professor Al. Ramanathan at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, will also join the project. Further, the project will include the possibility for PhD and master students to do paid internship projects related to it. The project, called Sustainable WAter Security through the Development of Artificial Glaciers, SWASDA, has received funding from the Swedish Research Council and will last for three years.