Amy Higgins, MESc

2011 TRI Fellow in India

Artificial Glaciers: Evaluating A Water-Harvesting Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation in Ladakh, India


Warming temperatures have altered water availability in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India, shortening the growing season. As climate change uncouples glacial melt cycles from the agricultural season, water is in increasingly short supply for farmers in the Himalaya, leading to difficult decisions about how many fields to plant and what to grow, as well as tensions with neighbors. A water harvesting strategy that diverts water into storage in colder mountain valleys in October and November for use in the water limited months of March and April has been developed and is in use in ten villages in the Himalaya. Villagers call these masses of ice “artificial glaciers.” Currently only anecdotal evidence of their value exists.

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of a water harvesting strategy and the possible impacts on agriculture in the Indian Himalayan region, through both qualitative and quantitative information about their project. Interview data from forty Ladakhi farmers in twenty-nine villages was gathered, with the goal of understanding how people are using the water, when people are using the water, what climactic changes they were observing, how water and agriculture has been affected, and if they believe the artificial glacier is benefitting their fields and families. Interviews were conducted on site visits in the fields or the family’s home. Data was then grouped into five categories and coded to generate an analysis of how people are allocating the water, how many fields are under cultivation, and if the water harvesting strategy enables farmers to grow more food.

Keywords: climate change, agricultural yields, water harvesting, artificial glacier