Ice Stupa – A Form of Artificial Glacier to fight water scarcity in remote areas

design and creativity can help fighting the energy crisis

At COP26, last november, designers from all over the world had a chance to present their projects and prove the importance of embracing design as a policy tool

Adaptation of an article by Alice Pasquariello for What Design Can Do   

Last november, governments met in Glasgow for ‘the world’s best last chance to get climate change under control’. At this 26th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, design came into the picture as the approach to take climate action and help empowering the creative community to make a difference.

credits: Cop26

The climate emergency combined with a global pandemic has highlighted how important design is for people, governments and the planet. For better or for worse, design dictates how we use our planet’s resources and for what. While it can—and indeed, has—led to harmful over-production and over-extraction, design’s power can also be harnessed for good.

‘Designers are in a unique position to change how things are made and what they are made of,’ writes Richard van der Laken, co-founder and creative director of WDCD – What Design Can Do, an international organisation that seeks to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, fair and just society using the power of design. Based in Amsterdam, with hubs in São Paulo, Mexico City, Delhi, Nairobi and Tokyo, WDCD started in 2011 and is initiated, curated and organised by creatives. Its mission is a world that is sustainable, inclusive, just and safe. At WDCD they believe in the problem-solving power of design to get us there. Its mission is to empower the global creative community to make a valuable contribution to solving the major problems of our time.

‘There are reasons to be optimistic — many creative people are already taking an active role in the transition to a more circular economy and system’, said van der Laken.

“All around the world there are design projects that are brilliant, illustrative examples of “what design can do”. Creatives are proving that the design field is a powerful tool for climate action. We all hope governmental policies will invest in design as an important resource in the climate emergency”. 

Brilliant design project to fight climate change: Ice Stupa

stupa  is a sanskirt word for a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics, that is used as a place of meditation. It is a very common architecture in several asian countries.

The ICESTUPA project recall that meaning to develop artificial glaciers that bring back year-round watering. The project originated in Ladakh, India.

credits: IceStupa

World-wide glacier retreat is one of the most obvious and impressive manifestations of climate warming. On a regional scale, glacier fluctuations can affect the supply of meltwater for reservoirs and irrigation.

The idea behind artificial glaciers is to freeze and hold the water that keeps flowing and wasting away down the streams and into the rivers throughout the winter. Instead, this ice will melt in the springtime, just when the fields need watering. However, since these are based on horizontal ice formation, they need very high altitude locations (above 4,000m), constant maintenance and a north-facing valley to shade the ice from the spring sun.

Seeing these problems and after discussions, the IceStupa Project offers a solution that is as brilliant as it is simple as it rely on a new approach in which the glaciers would be free of location, frequent maintenance and shading requirement etc.

The IceStupa

In the new model, the IceStupa, such result is achieved by freezing the stream water vertically in the form of huge ice towers or cones of 30 to 50m height that look very similar to the local sacred mud structures called Stupa or Chorten. These ice mountains can be built right next to the village itself where the water is needed. Very little effort or investment would be needed except for laying one underground pipeline from a higher point on the stream to the outskirts of the village. 

How it works

First, water is piped from a stream to drip from 60m above the ground. During the cold nights of Ladakhi, the water freezes to form a huge cone, or Ice Stupa. The artificial glacier’s unique shape extends upward, receiving fewer of the Sun’s rays and melting slower than horizontal glaciers. The Ice Stupa lasts long into the summer, watering the fields below and replenishing reservoirs as it melts.

The idea is also to conserve this tower of ice as long into the summer as possible so that as it melts, it feeds the fields until the real glacial melt waters start flowing in June. Since these ice cones extend vertically upwards towards the sun, they receive fewer of the sun’s rays per the volume of water stored; hence, they will take much longer to melt compared to an artificial glacier of the same volume formed horizontally on a flat surface.

Curious to see it working? Here’s the video:

Interested in getting to know more about the power of #design? Keep following our blog: we research and share all the best practices we come across. 
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fonti: WhatDesignCanDo.com I IceStupa I COP26

cover photo: IceStupa.org


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