As a delicate reserve, snow water harvesting has traditionally played an important role in the cultural identity of the agricultural peoples of the Himalayan Mountains.
Pragya.org is a development organization registered both in India as well as the UK as non-profit, working to develop vulnerable communities and sensitive ecosystems of the world in an appropriate way.
Looking to develop without destruction and provide empowerment for enabling choices, Pragya has made a commitment to projects such as snow water harvesting through holistic, sustainable development with a focus on vulnerable and neglected communities and ecosystems.
One of their finest achievements has been the development of artificial glaciers in the Western Indian Himalayas, a cold desert region that suffers from severe water shortage for both drinking and crop irrigation.
From climatic to geographic to human-induced challenges, the hardships for livelihood and habitation in cold desert regions are one of the most acute on the planet; and part of the solution in harvesting snow water in a sensible way.
Pragya Project began by mapping the harvesting potential of the area, documenting the traditional knowledge and practices of water sharing in the community and then on to making the community itself aware of the best budgeting, accounting and management practices.
Designing and introducing more appropriate technologies for snow water management through artificial glacier construction as well as the use of hydrams, and pioneering a water management model for the whole region.
Cultural identity and heritage play big roles in the Pragya model, roles that help members of the community come together in a way they had almost forgotten, helping them help themselves with self-sustainability that uses cultural identity in a unique way for modern times.
Lahaul, Spiti (Himachal) and Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) are the places where Pragya.org is executing the first model projects, and more specifically in Spiti valley the first snow water harvesting artificial glacier has been built in the village of Poh around 10,500 feet above sea level.
Upstream, some 100 feet from the snow water harvester, Pragya ApTech team diverted the Nallah stream into a reservoir under the shadow of an enormous rockface, which begins freezing around December and thaws when irrigation is most dearly needed.
Around the rockface, the artificial glacier can store more than 625 kilos of snow and is completely free of rock or landslide risks. A concrete wall to one side and boulders against a metal-wire mesh the snow water harvester is a prototype for the region.
Harvesting snow water in cold desert regions is not merely a way to rehabilitate the land for crop growth, as it is also a way to bring cultural identity to a people in between the ancient times and the rapid pace of a global world.
Snow water harvesting can bring life to cold deserts and renew traditional heritage as an example of sustainability that all of us can learn from, globally.