Russell Beard, who is a final year student on ESALA’s Art, Space + Nature programme at Edinburgh College of Art, directed & presented the film ‘Ladakh’s Ice Stupas’ for the Earthrise series.
The film, which was first broadcast on Al Jazeera English in 2017, won the Gold World Medal award in the New York festival’s Environment & Ecology category.
Russell looks at how a community in Ladakh, India, are building “Ice Stupas” to preserve water in an attempt to address water shortages caused by disappearing glaciers.
Since 1980 the average temperature has increased by more than two degrees, with a huge impact on the local environment. Much of the glaciated area in Ladakh has been lost, meaning that fossil glaciers known as “reservoirs in the sky” are melting at an alarming rate and in some areas have disappeared altogether. The “Ice Stupa” builds upon a simple concept – intercepting winter glacial melt water that is flowing downhill on its way to the sea and storing it in the form of ice to be used to irrigate forests and farmland throughout the spring when water shortages are most severe. By creating a small pond high on Himalayan slopes, water is collected and piped downhill where gravity forces the flow up though a vertical pipe and sprinkler, up to 30 meters high, coating stacks of buckthorn branches which help to increase the surface area and help the water freeze in temperatures that can reach as low as -30 degrees Celsius. The process results in massive cone-like structures capable of storing millions of litres of water for use by nearby villages and farms – creating striking sculptural forms and providing a vital lifeline for mountain communities at the very frontline of climate change.
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