An engineer, innovator, and an education reformist originally from the Trans Himalayan region of Ladakh in India, Sonam Wangchuk has done what no social entrepreneur has done in the world.
Wangchuk is the winner of the international Rolex Award of Enterprise 2016 for his solution to freeze glacial meltwater into towering conical mounds resembling Tibetan religious stupas. These ice stupas behave like mini-glaciers, slowly releasing irrigation water for the growing season.
With his Rolex Award funds Wangchuk intends to create up to 20 ice stupas, each 30 metres high, and initiate a substantial tree-planting programme on the desert near their school once the new water supply system is established.
The 50-year old is also the Founding Director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), which was founded in 1988 by a group of students and strives to rebuild the lost pride and self-confidence of the students of Ladakh through its educational reforms programme.
He is also known for designing the SECMOL campus that runs completely on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting or heating, even in Ladakhi winters when temperatures fall to minus 25C degrees.
“25 years ago when I finished my own engineering education, I realized schools were a pain for everyone. But for mountain children, it was doubly painful and irrelevant. Children who spoke Tibetan or Ladakhi at home were made to sit all day memorizing and alien language like Urdu or English.
With an aim to change the face of higher education not only for Ladakh but the whole world, Wangchuk engages students to find solutions by working for real life problems like climate change.
Wangchuk, who believes in the power of the youth to steer social movements ahead, has listed his social venture on crowdfunding website Milaap. On special request, here’s the link for those who wish to know more about the Ice Stupas - https://milaap.org/fundraisers/hial.