By Sumita Bagchi posted Apr 3rd 2017 at 6:00AM
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Celebrating the spirit of enterprise, Rolex awards thinkers who have reshaped the world with their innovative thinking and dynamism in a unique programme
Leh engineer Sonam Wangchuk, who inspired the Indian blockbuster 3 Idiots of 2009, took home the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2016.Wangchuk, a 50-year-old Ladhaki engineer was one amongst five winners, who received the award at the 40th Rolex Awards for Enterprise in Los Angeles, in November, in the presence of some of the biggest names in cinema. Wangchuk’s project was a remedy to tackle the severe seasonal water scarcity in the western Himalayas by building artificial glaciers—ice stupas shaped like Buddhist monuments—to store water, to irrigate and reforest desert land. Wangchuk, a believer that education and care for the environment should go hand in hand, was certain that access to water in the desert landscapes around the high altitude towns and villages of Ladakh could be improved if the huge seasonal outflows of glacial water could be frozen. His pathbreaking idea is to build up to 20 ice stupas, each 30 metres high and capable of supplying millions of litres of water; the long-term aim is to build an alternative university and engage youth in the environment.
A display of Wangchuk's award-winning ice stupa
“The Rolex Award funds will support the project and promote ice stupas as a climate-change adaptation and desertgreening technique,” he said. The year also marked the 40th anniversary of the awards, which were created in 1976 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof watch. In keeping with the pioneering spirit of Rolex, the objective was to create a programme that reflected the brand’s spirit of enterprise. Since then, there have been 140 award winners—ranging in the age group from 24 to 74, from diverse fields—who have carried out projects benefiting millions of people in more than 60 countries.“The Rolex Awards were designed to support those whose own spirit of enterprise mirrored the enterprising spirit on which the company was founded,” explained Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex. All winners were awarded a Rolex chronometer watch and funding for their project, apart from a worldwide publicity campaign. Several Indian luminaries such as tennis legend Vijay Amritraj and former mentor in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Mira Nair were part of the award ceremony.
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