Environment

Sonam Wangchuk experiments with ice tunnel

Sonam Wangchuk experiments with ice tunnels

After his revolutionary plan of arranging solar-heated military tents for the Indian Army, Sonam Wangchuk is back with another phenomenal idea, where he experiments with an ice tunnel. The engineer cum innovator never fails to impress when it comes to putting science to use for practical purposes and improving people’s lives.

In a video he shared on his YouTube channel, he shares specifics of the issue people face when crossing Zoji La high pass and how the pains of natives prompted him to experiment with the ice tunnel.

Current status without the ice tunnel

Having travelled countless times between Ladakh and Kashmir via Zoji La pass, Sonam Wangchuk shares his experience and asserts a fact that the route is intermittently shut down due to heavy snowfall. Furthermore, the pass is also closed for operations annually for almost 6 months starting from December and ranging up to May when the snowfall is at its peak in the region.

Nevertheless, with the ongoing construction of the Zoji La tunnel in close coordination between the National Highways Authority of India and Mega Engineering, Hyderabad, going forward the route is expected to be more predictable and operational throughout the year.

Zoji La tunnel connecting Leh and Srinagar
Source: Frame from a YouTube video shared by Sonam Wangchuk

However, there would still be hurdles that the residents will have to overcome to reach the tunnel. As the roads to the tunnel site are often covered under many layers of snow, it takes substantial efforts to keep them in operating condition. With a large number of machines and men deployed regularly to keep the approach roads clean, tons of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, not to mention the monetary costs involved. And who would understand the consequences of climate change better than the locals of the Himalayan region, who witness their glaciers melting in front of their eyes?

What is Sonam Wangchuk’s ice tunnel experiment all about

Hence, the idea of an ice tunnel was conceptualised by Mr Sonam Wangchuk, to address the significant environmental and monetary toll associated with the existing cleaning routines of the roads. His aim is to eliminate the use of machines for keeping the route from Dras to the Eastern portal of Zoji La tunnel functional even during the snow season.

He illustrates the simple concept of designing an arch-shaped tunnel made of ice. Explaining further, he points out that once four to five inches thick ice takes a parabolic shape and freezes, it will have enough strength to withstand the weight of even 10 kgs thick ice on the top. The analogy that even an elephant cannot break an egg if the egg is kept in a standing position makes the concept more apparent.

Sonam Wangchuk experiments with ice tunnel
Source: Frame from a YouTube video shared by Sonam Wangchuk

Mr Sonam Wangchuk is performing experiments in SECMOL Alternative School to make the idea see the light of day. We wish that his experiment is successful and India gets her first ice tunnel soon which cuts down carbon emissions as a result of routine cleaning of the snowy routes and gives the residents of the region healthier air to breathe.

Signing off now, stay tuned for similar information about events, which gives us hope of a better world for our future generations. See you all in our next episode.

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