Ice Now, Nice Later
The proposal envisions massed ranks of towers positioned in and on those areas of the Himalayas currently occupied by retreating glaciers. The design incorporates central vents for cold air ingress that, along with integral cooling machinery (if required), freeze water and store it inside 4 cylindrical sections that rise above the snow line.
(image via: Gigazine)
During the summer monsoon season, the towers absorb water through their substantial supporting “roots”. Much like in natural plants, the absorbed water helps to strengthen the towers’ support while at the same time sequestering excess water that might otherwise contribute to flooding in lowland areas downstream. An innovative network of water dispersal pipes running through the bases of the towers will also incorporate space for a railway, facilitating the movement of people and goods throughout the region.
If built in sufficient quantities, Himalaya Water Towers could go a long way toward replacing the natural water management functions of mountain glaciers by artificial means. Once constructed, the towers would employ natural environmental conditions such as rainfall, snowfall, sunlight and wind to facilitate their operation, thus reducing their ecological footprint as much as possible.
Skyscrapers or Icescrapers?
As a design study, Himalaya Water Towers conveniently gloss over some daunting engineering challenges regarding their construction, operation and financing to name but a few. Consider the actual construction process for a single tower… what will the environmental effects be, considering most of the Himalayan region is currently underpopulated, relatively unpolluted and one of the world’s natural wonders?
(images via: Onliner)
Now consider the effects of constructing dozens, perhaps hundreds of Himalaya Water Towers across a wide swath of high-altitude geography ranging from Afghanistan to western China? Men and materials can be trucked and/or airlifted to the building sites but then who pays what to whom, and when? You can bet the costs will be as skyscraping as the towers themselves.
In the end, money and messes may not matter compared to the alternative: inaction. Without the glaciers to store and gradually disperse water to the surrounding lowlands, upwards of a billion people living, working and farming there will be held hostage to a devastating whipsaw of flood and drought repeated throughout the year, every year. The cost in lives and livelihoods over the upcoming centuries will far exceed the cost of constructing a network of Himalaya Water Towers over the next several decades.