The director of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL), Wangchuk, was born in 1966. He is a mechanical engineer. The 2009 film “3 Idiots,” starring Aamir Khan as the fictional Phunsukh Wangdu, was inspired by Wangchuk. The Ladakh-based engineer is renowned for establishing his cutting-edge school, the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), whose campus works on solar energy and utilizes no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, or heating. In 1988, he founded the SECMOL intending to assist Ladakhi children and youth and educate those kids in the system deemed failures. Project New Hope was started in 1994 by Wangchuk to overhaul the public education system.

Wangchuk, a professional engineer turned activist for educational reform, has spent the last 30 years promoting the development of Ladakh. He is credited with creating artificial glaciers, solar-heated buildings, and, more recently, better public educational facilities.

On January 31st, Sonam Wangchuk brought his five-day ‘climate’ fast to an end. This protest to maintain peace with the ecosystem, was joined by hundreds of people, who sat with the environmental activist at the Leh’s famous Polo Ground to raise awareness about the evils of climate change. 

What caused Sonam Wangchuk to endure a difficult five-day fast in minus 20 degree weather?

For 30 years, Wangchuk was worried about Ladakh’s ecosystem, mountains, and glaciers. He has created solar-heated homes that don’t utilize fossil fuels, generate smoke, or otherwise contaminate the environment to ensure that locals don’t damage the ecosystem. Since the glaciers are melting, he has been creating artificial ice glaciers to help the Ladakhi people prepare for the repercussions of climate change, which will affect us whether we want it or not. 


“We should choose simple ways of living… to live in harmony with nature by adopting simpler technologies and using natural resources innovatively.”

-Sonam Wangchuk


For anyone who follows news about India you’d know that Ladakh was recently designated a Union Territory. The inhabitants of Ladakh were happy but also worried that this would open Ladakh to industrial and mining exploitation, thus endangering the nature. Which is why the locals wanted protections, if not under Article 370, then under the Sixth Schedule. But 3 years have passed and it has yet to be introduced!

The current state of affairs makes using the phrase “Sixth Schedule” illegal. Individuals who bring up this subject are detained and have FIRs filed against them. This is why Sonam decided to observe a day-long symbolic fast on Khardung-La, the highest pass in the world, to call the government’s attention to the need to protect our water resources.

A Fight to Protect Ladakh’s Natural Beauty

Protecting mountains, glaciers, distinctive ethnic groups, and Ladakhi culture are essential. Its civilization has been carefully honed over millennia to adapt to and coexist with the area’s harsh climate. To protect tribal culture, the Indian Constitution includes the Sixth Schedule. It exists to encourage and defend variety while preserving unity. It is what makes India so great!

The Constitution requires 50% of a region’s population to be tribal for the Sixth Schedule to apply, although Ladakh has a population that is almost entirely tribal (around 95%). Ladakh’s inclusion was anticipated to happen soon. If the authorities continue to ignore the requirements of Ladakh and if the UT isn’t given protection from industries, the glaciers there will disappear, creating a severe water shortage and other dangers for the nation and its neighbors. Industries, tourism, and trade will continue to thrive in Ladakh if proper steps are not implemented, and they will finally wreck it. If the glaciers in Ladakh are not adequately cared for, two-thirds of them could disappear, according to the studies from Kashmir University and other academic institutions.

This climate change is not only attributable to global warming caused by other nations, it is driven equally by localized pollutants and emissions. There should be little human activity in places like Ladakh to prevent harm to the glaciers. 

But Ladakh is not currently listed in the Indian Constitution’s Sixth Schedule, which offers autonomy to areas with a significant tribal population. Sonam Wangchuk is requesting its inclusion. In addition, Wangchuk is demonstrating against unethical and damaging environmental actions that are being carried out in Leh and Ladakh under the guise of development. China, Pakistan, and the temperate region of Jammu & Kashmir are all bordered by Ladakh….therefore from a military perspective, it is a crucial territory for India. All these reasons make it imperative for the local community and the government to discuss and come up with a balanced and more harmonious development strategy for Ladakh. 


“I hope the conduct of Indians can become an example for the rest of the world to follow.”

– Sonam Wangchuk


Wangchuk is a real inspiration for people engaged in environmental preservation and sustainable development. Since India is experiencing several effects from climate change, including rising temperatures, more intense and frequent heatwaves, increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and declining agricultural production. Wangchuk demonstrates that it is possible to accomplish economic growth and development without compromising the environment’s state by promoting eco-friendly techniques like renewable energy and sustainable agriculture and funding research and development.