Artificial Glaciers: A Solution for Peru?

(Photo: MIke Dreckschmidt/Living in Peru)

An Indian innovator shows that artificial glaciers could be a way forward for countries with dwindling snow-capped mountains.

The disappearance of Peru’s glaciers is looming shadow over all the economic growth and progress that the country is making.  Not only does their loss threaten water supplies, but local municipal neglect throughout the country has permitted people to settle in areas where flood risk is greatest from the melting glaciers.

The lakes that form and amass excess glacier run off turn into “virtual bombs” for the cities that live downstream, writes KV Kurmanath of the Hindu Business Line.  This is the case for the city of Huaraz in Peru which is situated below a pair of glaciers feeding into the “bomb” of Lake Palcacocha.

However, one innovator in Ladakh, India is working on something that could help save our disappearing glaciers.

Sonam Wangchuk created the Ice Stupa Project, inspired while driving through the Himalayas, which creates towers of ice where glaciers are disappearing.  It works through a mechanism where excess water coming off the glaciers during the summer is rerouted by pipes up to just below the frost line and then sprayed into the freezing air.

This mechanism preserves the glacier melt for seasons when water is scarcer and competition is fierce among farmers for the resource.  It could also prevent excess water from building up into the high lakes that threaten cities in the valleys below.

The inventor seeks to integrate tradition and culture into innovation, according to a fascinating article in the Guardian on this project.

70% of the world’s tropical glaciers are found in Peru alone, and they are among the most at-risk for climate change which is producing higher temperatures at higher altitudes than ever before.  Peruvian institutions and scientists will gather more data so that planners and leaders may make more informed decisions, but there is a sense of urgency in which research must coincide quickly with action.

Perhaps this technology could offer a partial solution to Peru’s water and risk management crisis related to disappearing glaciers.  The greater challenge lies in developing the political will and coordination for these kinds of projects to be implemented.

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Mike Dreckschmidt

Mike grew up and eventually attended university in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He graduated in Integrative Leadership Studies with an emphasis in Urban and Regional Planning and has been a part of planning projects in three different countries. Mike’s passion is reading; he devours both literature and nonfiction. His favorite author is Peru’s own Julio Ramón Ribeyro.