Chewang Norphel
Norphel in 2009
Engineering career
DisciplineCivil engineering
Employer(s)Jammu and Kashmir rural development department
Significant designWater catchment; artificial glacier
AwardsPadma Shri(2015)

Chewang Norphel [needs IPA] (born 1935) is an Indian civil engineer from Ladakh, who has built 15 artificial glaciers.[1] He has earned the title of Ice Man.[2]

Early life and career

Coming from a middle-class family of Leh, Norphel went to Amar Singh College in Srinagar as a student of science. He completed a diploma course in civil engineering from Lucknow in 1960. In June 1960, he joined the rural development department of Jammu and Kashmir in Ladakh as a civil engineer. He retired in 1995.

Artificial glaciers

In 1996, Norphel joined the Leh Nutrition Project, a non-governmental organisation, as project manager for watershed development.[3][4]

Norphel noticed a small stream had frozen solid under the shade of a group of poplar trees, though it flowed freely elsewhere in his yard. He realized the reason for this phenomenon: the flowing water was moving too quickly to freeze, while the sluggish trickle of water beneath the trees was slow enough to freeze. Based on this, he created artificial glaciers by diverting a river into a valley, slowing the stream by constructing checks. The artificial glaciers increase the ground-water recharge, rejuvenating the spring and providing water for irrigation. He constructed them at lower elevations, so that they melt earlier, expanding the growing season.[5]

By 2012, Norphel had built 12 artificial glaciers. Norphel's largest glacier is the one at the Phuktsey village.[6] It is 1,000 ft long, 150 ft wide and 4 ft in depth. It can supply water for the entire village of 700 people and cost Rs 90,000 to make.[7]

Documentary film-maker Aarti Shrivastava also directed a short film on his life titled White Knight, which was screened at film festivals in India and abroad.


He is a recipient of the Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 2010.[8] He was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, in 2015.[9]


  1. ^ Nelson, Dean (28 October 2009). "Indian engineer 'builds' new glaciers to stop global warming". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
  2. ^ Shrager, Heidi (25 February 2008). "'Ice Man' vs. Global Warming". Time. Archived from the original on 1 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Water harvesters". Centre for Science and Environment.
  4. ^ "Real Heroes". 2008. IBN Live. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  5. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (22 January 2010). "Creating glaciers out of thin air". Telegraph. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  6. ^ Bagla, Pallava (4 September 2001). ""Artificial Glaciers" Aid Farmers in Himalayas". National GeographicNews. Archived from the original on 8 September 2006.
  7. ^ "The ice-man of Ladakh brings hope to farmers". Ecosensorium. 8 November 2009. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Jamnalal Bajaj Award". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Padma Awards 2015". Press Information Bureau. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.