Feeling the heat of global warming, the Himachal Pradesh government is contemplating to go for snow harvesting as a solution to deal with water scarcity in high-altitude areas.

Official sources said the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment in HP will shortly start a pilot study to develop technology for snow harvesting with SASE (Centre for Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment), Manali.

The area picked up for the pilot study is Pooh valley of tribal Kinnaur district of HP.

Pooh is located at an altitude of 2,662 metres and has apple orchards. It receives enough snow, lesser rain and faces water shortage in routine. So much that locals had to engage water tankers for irrigating apple plants last year.

SASE is a laboratory under Defence Research and Development organisation(DRDO) and its primary function is research in the field of snow and avalanches to provide avalanche-control measures and forecasting support to the armed forces.

“We had made a presentation before the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. We have got in-principle approval to the study with SASE. We will start working on it as soon as we get the written sanction,” Kunal Satyarthi, Joint Member Secretary of the state Council for Science Technology and Environment, HP, told The Statesman.

A project worth a crore of Rupees will help the state develop a model for snow harvesting, which can be replicated in other such areas.

“The Council will do the equipment part and SASE will focus on monitoring. Earlier, the DRDO had done some work on snow harvesting at Leh on a small scale, which got some success,” said Satyarthi.  

“We have chosen Pooh on the basis of utilisation. We will build structures to trap snow. The snow so gathered can be channelised for apple orchards in need or used for supplementing water supply in lean season,” Satyarthi added.

So far, the state, which is increasingly witness to melting glaciers and drying up water sources, has so far focused much on rainwater harvesting. However, the tribal areas of the state, including Kinnaur and cold desert of Lahaul and Spiti, receive much snow every year that melts without put to any use.

The tribals in Lahaul said the springs and other local water sources, which were used for drinking water schemes, are running dry over time due to changing weather and gradual melting of glaciers.

“The rivers are there, but the lifting of water from rivers is a very costly venture. Snow harvesting could be a solution. The locals do it at household level based on need or some NGOs have done it for community in villages, but nothing has been done on a bigger level,” said Mohan Lal of Malang valley in Lahaul.