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Leh Nutrition 

Project

Climate change is causing significant impacts on Leh-Ladakh, a high-altitude cold desert region in the Himalayas. Rising temperatures are leading to glacial melt, reducing water sources and increasing the risk of glacial lake outburst floods. This glacial meltwater has long been crucial for supporting agriculture and sustaining the livelihoods of the local communities. Changing precipitation patterns have brought erratic and unpredictable rainfall, further disrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem. ​

The villages in Ladakh are experiencing an accelerated flow of water during the summer months, but there is a decrease in water availability during the crucial sowing season in April and May. Almost 90% of farmers in Ladakh are dependent on snowmelt water for irrigation. With diminishing water availability during the critical sowing season, agricultural practices are being severely affected, posing a significant threat to food security and the local economy.​

Leh Nutrition Project (LNP), in collaboration with the communities of Mudh and Tsaga villages in Changtang, has taken the initiative to construct cascading artificial glaciers in their respective villages to address the problem. A cascading artificial glacier is a water harvesting technique that involves the construction of cascade type retaining walls in stone masonry over a stream to conserve the water in the form of ice. It gradually melts during the sowing season, providing a valuable water source for ground water recharge, rejuvenation of springs and irrigation. 

The remote village of Mudh is home to about 100 households. The village's economy revolves around livestock rearing, agriculture, and labour work. It has no glacier of its own, and depends on snowfall, snowpacks and springs. Changing climate patterns and environmental factors have resulted in issues of water scarcity in the region.

In Tsaga village, 11 families practice semi-nomadic pastoralism by rearing goats and engaging in farming; their primary source of income is the production of pashmina fiber. However, they too are currently experiencing challenges stemming from water scarcity, which are impacting their way of life. 

Fifty-year old Nurbu Dolma expresses the predicament faced by the community, stating that despite having enough land, its effective utilization is hindered by water scarcity. The unmet water requirements pose significant challenges to their agricultural endeavors and the overall productivity of their land. The family primarily grows wheat, but also grows vegetables like spinach, white radish, peas, potatoes and turnip for personal consumption.

In both villages, the project was initiated by mobilizing the community and raising awareness about the concept of artificial glaciers. Workshops and meetings were organized to inform and train the community. As part of the initiative, a Water Committee was formed to take on the primary responsibility for the project. The active involvement of the community from the beginning aimed to promote engagement and guarantee the long-term success of the artificial glacier initiative. 

The water committee members in Mudh carefully chose a location for the artificial glacier. Men and women actively participated in constructing a 300 ft long by 5 ft high cascading wall. The artificial glacier has faced a setback as the water is not flowing through the channels as intended. In response, the Leh Nutrition Project (LNP) and the community continue to collaborate to bring further efficiency to the initiative.

The collaborative efforts between the LNP and the communities of Mudh and Tsaga in constructing cascading artificial glaciers serve as an example of community-led initiative to address water scarcity. By combining traditional knowledge with innovative solutions, the project has not only provided a roadmap to combat water scarcity but also fostered community ownership and resilience in the face of climate change impacts.

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