October 2020 – The city of Leh is one of the highest located urban areas in India with an elevation of 3500m above sea level and a temperature that varies drastically from season to season. Historically, Leh had abundant spring water and wetlands that made life sustainable even in these frigid terrains.
Leh consists of 13 municipal wards; the village of Gangles in ward 1 is the first village one enters when descending from Khardung La towards Leh. The location of the village is such that it runs parallel and down below its road connectivity. And as per the engineering in Leh, most of the main pipelines are laid either along the roadways or the waterways in order to prevent pipelines from being buried under any sort of infrastructure. Hence, Gangles faces an ambiguity in the management of its water flow according to its topography. Pipelines brought from the roadways along the mountainous terrain couldn’t be buried since it isn’t feasible to dig up rock structures.
During the winters all of these unburied pipelines remain exposed, leading to freezing of their water content and ultimately damaging the pipes. The main water sources of Gangles are the spring waters of Gyalung (a valley located behind Gangles) and Gangles itself. Most of these water resources are situated in flood-prone areas, which further complicates the water connections laid by P.H.E. During the last decade, there has been frequent flooding in the region which has caused damage to the connections.
BORDA South Asia proposed initiation of a pilot project to provide 24*7 water supply in Leh. On consultation with the P.HE, Gangles was selected to be the first ward to test such pilot projects because it has fewer households, it is one of the coldest wards, and above all its pipelines were the most damaged and blocked. Initially, LEDeG had to provide an alternative water source by digging a new borewell and fixing rising mains to it. With the development of the project, it became clear that it needs more than just an alternative source. Most of the storage chambers (a chamber made along with the main connections from which the lineman controls the diversion of water flow) were blocked during the floods. This situation enforced the cleaning of these storage chambers and unblocking of the existing pipelines.
The project aims to overcome most of the challenges that are common to the Himalayan regions such as high elevation, frigid temperatures, landslides, and floods. A completely new water source has been provided by digging up a tubewell closer to the existing storage reservoir so that the old existing pipelines could be put to use. The household connections are being insulated with K-Flex and buried under the ground to prevent pipe damages caused during the winters. So far 20 households have been given the new insulated water connection and during the winter of 2020-2021, the new water connections will be put to use and checked for continued functionality throughout the winters. If the project succeeds in its objective, then this model of water distribution will be followed in every other ward of Leh.
BORDA South Asia has proposed the initiation of a pilot project to provide 24*7 water supply in Leh, part of an approach to overcome challenges that are common to the Himalayan regions such as high altitude, frigid temperatures, landslides and floods
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