Category Archives: Uncategorized

News in media

Save The Himalaya  1 2019

Save The Himalaya  2019

Ritesh Arya in Save The Himalayan Foundation

Ritesh Arya in Save The Himalayan Foundation

India Today

Story  LEH, OCTOBER 9, 2007 |

Incredible waterman- Dr Ritesh Arya


At 18,380 ft in the Himalayas, Khardung La, a wind-swept pass with scanty oxygen on the world’s highest motorable road in Ladakh, is the ultimate milestone for record-crazy adventure seekers.

But, Ritesh Arya’s fascination with craggy and barren mountains runs deeper, literally. This intrepid hydrogeologist is about to succeed in his quest for ground water on Khardung La—a feat that could surpass his own world record of digging borewells at high altitudes.

Already, sparkling clear ground water is streaming out of two borewells he had dug recently at South Pullu and North Pullu, army posts and snow shelters on either side of the pass at 15,300 ft and 15,400 ft, respectively.

Until a month ago, the only source of drinking water here were water tankers from distant Leh and Partapur at the base of the Siachen glacier.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle to get ground water at this height,” gushes a Junior Commissioned Officer of the military police post at South Pullu, an area where granite rocks abound which, according to conventional geology, are too impervious to hold any ground water.

But Arya perceived a narrow valley of rock debris at the base of the receding Khardung glacier, now 6 km from the road, as the most definite indicator of ground water charged by the melting glacier. And, two days after a rig drilled a 300-ft deep hole, it struck a ground water reservoir.

Arya plans his drilling operations after studying the exposed rock faces in the landscape. Such exploits come naturally to him, a diminutive 39-year-old who holds a PhD degree in geology.

By combining his hands-on expertise in Himalayan geology with an unconventional approach, this hydrogeologistturned-professional driller has broken new ground on scientific exploitation of ground water in the high-altitude, cold desert of Ladakh.

In the past 12 years, Arya has dug more than a hundred borewells in inhospitable and treacherous terrains where no geologist or government agency has ventured before. From Siachen glacier to the China border, the Indus plains of Leh and the Kargil heights, his explorations have ensured all-weather ground water supplies to the army and civilians alike.

More significantly, Arya’s pioneering research is likely to redefine Himalayan hydrology and change the traditional schemes for drinking water and irrigation in rain-deficit Ladakh, which has so far been harnessing mostly surface water from the river Indus or glacier-fed streams.

Apart from perennial shortage, there is also the problem of silt in glacier melt in summer and freezing of surface water sources in winter. In Leh town, for example, only 10 per cent of the population— which rises from 15,000 to 50,000 every summer due to tourist inflow— has access to ground water through public taps, the rest depends on water tankers.

Ground water exploitation in Ladakh, undertaken by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), has been confined to areas along the Indus river. Exploration beyond that has always been discouraged on the premise that a rocky mountain desert cannot hold ground water.

But, Arya punched holes in this belief by digging a borewell for the army at 14,000 ft in Chushul on China border in 2006—a feat that earned him an entry in the Guiness Book of World Records. “It’s like rediscovering the simple principles of geology and physics operating in high-altitudes,” says Arya.

“His borewells are not only a costeffective solution to the army’s rising water needs in Ladakh but have also boosted the morale of the troops,” says Sanjay Kaul, assistant commander works engineer at the newly-set up 14 Corps in Leh.

“A systematic development of untapped potential of ground water can lead to green revolution in this cold desert,” says Arya. He has since drilled borewells to augment water supply schemes for, among others, the Airports Authority of India, the Indian Oil Corporation, the Indian Air Force and field research laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Read more at:












Hot water discovered in Siachen- Dr Ritesh Arya

Priya Yadav, TNN May 1, 2012, 09.24PM IST



CHANDIGARH: The highest battlefield in the world, Siachen glacier, hides a warming truth, recently discovered. Geologists have discovered hot water from geothermal sources in the glacier which is nearly 15 degrees warm in plunging -40 degree Celsius weather. The hot source has come as a relief in the freezing conditions as it can now be used for growing vegetables, setting up green houses on the glacier besides cutting down heavy reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

The Indian army had outsourced the project of first discovering ground water in Siachen sector as soldiers were being compelled to melt ice from the frozen Siachen river to quench their thirst and for all other purposes. Ritesh Arya, the project director, known for establishing a record in the Guinness Book of World Records, for discovering water sources at highest altitude in Ladakh, told TOI from Leh,”We had drilled holes a decade ago for the army, in coordination with 4 Engineers Corps, to discover underground water sources in Siachen. Last year, we were assigned a task to explore and develop geothermal source in Siachen Base Camp by Indian Army. We explored the site for geothermal development by drilling borewell but it was a tough task especially as it was assigned on’ no water, no money’ basis.”



ASIT JOLLY  MAY 11, 2012 | UPDATED 13:05 IST

Siachen: Hydrogeologist Dr Ritesh Arya taps into a hot water source near Army base camp

TAGS: Siachen |Perennial hot showers |Pakistan



MAGIC WELL SPREADS WARMTH: Within walking distance of the 70-km-long glacier’s rapidly shrinking snout, the well produces 12,000 litres of hot water every hour.

The Indian Army on the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen, now has a major advantage over its Pakistani adversaries. And no, it is not superior gun positions glowering over the Himalayan glacier, but the prospect of perennial hot showers where extreme winter temperature plummets to minus 40 degrees Celsius and the freeze claims more lives than bullets.

This is the incredible gift that Ritesh Arya, 44, a hydrogeologist specialising in high altitude exploration, gave the troops at Siachen Base Camp One on April 19 when he unbelievably tapped into a geothermal (heated) water source at 3,540 metres. The result: Endless supply of hot water in a place where it takes thousands of gallons of diesel and kerosene to keep the kitchen and laundry running.

Besides saving Indian soldiers from chilblains, the availability of natural warm water will also significantly slow down further degradation of the highly precarious glacial ecology caused by the constant burning of fossil fuels. “This is a dream come true. Nobody would have ever thought it would be possible to drill into a hot water source on these bone-chilling heights. But I was certain it could be done,” says Arya.

Within walking distance of the mighty, 70-km-long glacier’s rapidly shrinking snout, ‘Arya’s well’ produces 12,000 litres of water every hour. Though infused with sulphur, undrinkable and only lukewarm, the water could help unravel a host of never-before possibilities to make soldiering in Siachen a little less difficult.

The Army had given Arya’s drilling company, Arya Drillers, a contract in June 2011 to explore a hot water source for the troops. This, after efforts to harness a thermal spring at Sasoma, 7 km south of the base camp, had to be abandoned amid objections from local villagers who use the precious resource for medicinal purposes.

A veteran of more than a thousand borewells in some of the most treacherous locations across Ladakh, including an artesian well (gusher) at Chushul that won him a place in Guinness Book of World Records in November 2004, Arya was sure he would find hot water in the glacier’s innards. Arya’s company is estimated to have drilled nearly 500 freshwater wells over the past 12 years. Eleven years ago, while drilling his first freshwater wells for the troops in Siachen, he had spotted a location along a zone of fractured granites at the edge of Base Camp One.

From the first trickle of warm water in October 2011, the drilling team’s real eureka moment came six months later when both the flow and temperature sustained through Siachen’s snow-bound winter. Excited Army jawans rushed out to wash utensils or simply delight themselves in the warmth of Arya’s ‘magic well’ when the gusher was put through its final test on the afternoon of April 19.

“He has a rare insight that flouts conventional knowledge, that I think is based on his training as a geologist,” says Professor Ashok Sahni, 71, one of the country’s best-known geoscientists, who has nominated Arya for this year’s National Geoscience Award. His citation reads: “For his pioneering work in providing abundant, clean and potable water to the Army, Tibetan settlements, monasteries and the common man in the high Himalayan terrain of Ladakh and Karakoram.”

What Arya really dreams of is complete demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier. “Siachen means an abundance of wild roses and that is how it should be,” he says.

Read more at:

Indian geologist Dr Ritesh Arya makes it to                 Guinness Book of World Records
Tribune News Service                                       

Chandigarh, May 11
Dr Ritesh Arya, a hydrogeologist from Panjab University, has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for drilling the highest artesian borehole in the world.

Hailing from Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, this geologist-turned-entrepreneur has been a ‘rebel’ of sorts. First, he left a cushy state government job to start a drilling company on his own and then moved up at high-altitude to drill deep tubewells against the laid-down geological dictum that “the probability of being able to economically harness groundwater on mountain peak is low.”

Investing Rs 30 lakh to start hydrogeological drilling operations, he successfully explored and drilled for groundwater all along the Indus-Tsangpo Suture zone in Leh and across Karakoram Range in the Nubra valley. The success list includes drilling borewells for the Army at Siachen Glacier, Tyagshi in Partapur, Nubra Valley and Thakung, which is the farthest point on the Pang Gong Lake on the Indo-China border.

Dr Arya had sent in his entries to the Guinness for three categories – drilling the highest borewell in the world with artesian conditions at Leh at an altitude of more than 11,000 ft above the mean sea level, drilling highest borehole in the world at 15,500 ft above mean sea level on Khardungla Mountain Range and the drilling borewell in the coldest climatic conditions at Siachen Glacier that is operational even in winters when temperatures plummet to -55 degree C.

While the artesian condition entry has been given a nod and the highest borehole overall is being investigated, the entry for the coldest climatic conditions has been rejected.

A communiqué received by the hydrogeologist from Mr David Hawksett, a UK-based Guinness World Record science and technology representative, reads: “I have now been in touch with some of my expert consultants and can confirm that we will accept for the highest artesian borehole in the world. I am still investigating your claim for the highest borehole overall.”








Groundwater a solution to water scarcity in hills: Dr Ritesh Arya
Tribune News Service                            

Shimla, February 3
Water scarcity is emerging as a major problem in the hills due to fast depleting surface water sources. With snow becoming increasingly scarce and glaciers receding at an alarming rate, discharge in various natural sources is declining and many of them dry up completely during peak summers when the demand for water is high.

Every summer, about 25 to 30 per cent of the total 7,989 water supply schemes are affected due to a decline in the discharge.

Parts of the state invariably face drought-like situation during summers due to irregular monsoon. Moreover, the snowline has been retreating with each passing year and as a result some of the water sources dry up as soon as the summer sets in. The discharge in traditional water sources is dependent on snowfall and rains and there is no other way to recharge them.

The Irrigation and Public Health Department has to continuously look for new sources to augment the supply to meet the growing demand. As a result water is being brought from distant sources, mostly through lift-schemes, which require much power for pumping.

The latest examples are the Shimla and Solan towns for which water is being lifted all the way from the Giri River. The government has now come out with a Rs 715 crore project for the state capital to bring water from the Chanshal Lake located 180 km away, albeit through a gravity scheme, which will not involve any pumping of water.

However, groundwater expert Ritesh Arya disapproves of such projects and rejects the policy of supplying water to habitations through centralised schemes by tapping surface water. “A permanent solution to the problem could be found only by shifting the focus from surface water to groundwater.”

Arya who has found a place in the Guinness book of records for his achievements in striking groundwater at an altitude of 14,000 ft in the high reaches of Ladakh, is of the firm view that global warming is an irreversible process and glaciers would continue to melt and snowline would keep receding, affecting the availability of the surface water. But groundwater is available in abundance right up to the higher reaches of Himalayas. All that the government needs to do is to engage some expert geologists who have expertise in groundwater.

Unlike plains where water table has been declining or groundwater has been contaminated by industrial effluents, the groundwater is largely unexploited, clean and could be supplied without any treatment, whereas, surface water has been over-exploited, contaminated and its availability is uncertain. Further, groundwater could be supplied in a decentralised manner and requires no lengthy pipelines and pumping machinery, making it economically a much attractive proposition than surface water schemes, Arya explains.

At present, the water supply schemes follow a centralised pattern under which surface water is tapped from some source, collected and then distributed. Such schemes are costly and uneconomical as a large pipe network is required for distribution. Another disadvantage is that the tail-end users do not get adequate water and if the scheme develops a fault the entire population served by it suffers. There are no such problems with the decentralised schemes based on groundwater sources, as the surface water sources are depleting and engineers are struggling to find new sources that are mostly located far off.

As far as surface water is concerned, the focus should be on conservation and maintaining its quality that is fast deteriorating due to unscientific disposal of wastewater, industrial effluents and urban waste. Unscientific disposal of wastewater and poor sanitation contaminates surface water causing health hazards.


















Groundwater aplenty in hills – Dr Ritesh Arya
Tribune News Service                                                                                                       Wednesday, November 8, 2006, Chandigarh, India


Finding a solution to the demand for water of the Indian Army at various locations between Kargil and Siachen glacier has been no mean task but thanks to the ingenuity of a young geologist and his team, the soldiers no longer have to toil to get water in sub-zero temperatures as bore wells have been dug all along the route.

Accomplishing this arduous task has brought laurels to Kasauli-based Ritesh Arya, who has broken his own earlier world record of drilling an artisan bore well at a height of 14,262 feet at Chusul on the India-China border, close to Tibetan territory. His name was listed in Guinness Book of World Records for drilling an artisan bore well near Zoravar Fort near Leh, located at a height of 11,300 feet in 2004.

He has now written to the Limca and Guinness Book of World Records to verify his claim and put a new record against his name. “Instead of making use of satellite imaging and other modern equipment, we believe in practising traditional knowledge,” says Arya. Though he has drilled a bore well even at a height of 15,500 feet at North Polo but that was not an artisan pump as a pump had to be used.

He says with his theory he has tried to change the notion that there is no groundwater on the hills, which is the main factor behind the government spending crores on lift-water schemes. “If we have successfully drilled bore wells in sub-zero temperatures on Siachen glacier, I feel that there should be no difficulty in having these wells at various places in Himachal as well,” he remarks.

Arya’s experimentation with drilling bore wells started as a challenge which came his way when he was asked by Water Aid, a charitable organisation run by the Queen of England to explore the possibility of providing water to the Tibetan refugee population residing at Choglunsar in Leh. He says he took it as a challenge and succeeded in addressing the problem faced by the 10,000exiled population that was given land by the Indian Government in Leh after they fled from Tibet in 1959.

Later he was approached by the Indian Army to provide a solution to the water problem faced by the men deployed in difficult areas along the Chinese border. “During a large part of the year, the snow is frozen and the soldiers had to melt it to meet their water requirement. So I was approached by the authorities to work out a way so that there could be ready availability of water,” he said.

In 2002 Arya and his team solved a major problem faced by the Indian Army when they drilled an artisan bore well, which till date is operating successfully at Chusul, where a memorial dedicated to the martyrs of the 1962 India-China war has been erected.

Arya says that the state government instead of pumping in crores of rupees on lift water supply schemes should tap the immense groundwater potential in the hills. “We must not forget that springs are a manifestation of groundwater and all old habitations in the hills are concentrated around them,” he explains.

Having served in the state government as a hydrologist for a brief period, he had placed a proposal before the authorities to drill artisan bore wells on a ‘no water-no money’ basis, which was surprisingly rejected. He still feels that a detailed study about groundwater and its harvesting should be conducted as this can pave the way for the setting up of cost-effective water schemes and addressing a major problem faced by the people in the hills.

Taking water to the mountains- Ritesh Arya                                                Tribune news service on hydrogeology contend that the probability of being able to economically harness groundwater on mountain peaks is low. Geologists, scientists and drillers have over the years seconded this opinion.

Ritesh Arya

It took indomitable will power and strength of conviction for a young scientist to prove otherwise. In fact, Dr Ritesh Arya (32) left his state government job as a hydrogeologist just because he wanted to prove that it was possible to exploit groundwater in higher reaches of the Himalayas. Arya hails from Kasauli and is an alumnus of Panjab University’s Geology Department.

It all started in 1996 when Arya put forth his views on groundwater movement and its occurrence in China. A UK-based non-government welfare organisation, Water and Charitable Trust, was looking for someone who could provide basic amenities to Tibetans settled in Ladakh and when Arya said that it was possible to harness groundwater on mountain peaks, a deal was struck on a no-water-no-money basis.


This young lad then set about the Herculean task of drilling mountains for groundwater. He painstakingly compiled data from 5,000 bore wells and developed a hydrogeological model. Then he purchased a drill-rig to sink wells at altitudes varying from 13,000 to 18,000 feet, at Sonam Ling settlement in Choglamsar, near Leh, and Thoise.His venture was successful. Water flowed from the bore wells and the plight of the dwellers was mitigated. A Rs-40-lakh project to drill 20 bore wells was also successfully accomplished. Then, in 1999, Arya drilled quite a few bore wells for the Indian Air Force, including some for drinking water purposes.

Drilling of a bore well in progress at Spiti

“Earlier, this region was facing acute water shortage despite the fact that it is a headwater mountain region where glaciers melt and merge with the river flow. Surface water is dependent on weather conditions and is scarce during summers. People here had to be content with contaminated water that water-tankers used to supply. The supply was just five to seven litres of water per day per family. Their miseries aggravated during winters when the temperature fell to –22°C and everything liquid froze and surface water could not be tapped. Residents of Sonamling Tibetan settlement were looking for a sustainable solution to this problem,” he says.

This year he has been invited to present a paper on hydrogeology at an international conference in Switzerland from July 10 to 15. Ironically enough, his hypothesis had initially found very few takers in his own country. Even the Central Ground Water Board, a premier Indian government agency, had scoffed at the theory of exploiting ground water resources at high altitudes and advised installation of a lift water scheme using diesel generator sets.

Recounting his experience, Arya claims that he is the first person to have crossed Khardungla to drill a deep tubewell. Intriguingly, he does not use modern resistivity methods of exploring ground water and goes more by lithology, geomorphology, his intuition and experience.

He is currently working for the Indian Army at Leh and is busy finishing the task of installing deep wells at Partapur and Leh. “The topography is dicey here. While on the one hand we have ‘artesian’ conditions near General Hospital, Leh, on the other we do not encounter any water-bearing strata up to 300 feet in areas around it,” he says, but is quick to add that such situations are inspiring.

The hill men are indebted to Arya. He has provided water to their parched lips.In turn, this geologist is grateful to them. Because of them, he was able to prove to the world that his assumptions were right. And for that he had to take on themighty mountains.








Borewells sunk at Ladakh heights!  Dr Ritesh Arya
Tuesday, March 23, 1999                                                                                          

SOLAN: Dr Ritesh Arya, Kasauli- based geologist-turned-hydrologist, has accomplished the path-breaking feat (hitherto deemed impossible) of sinking borewells at altitudes varying from 13,000 to 18,000 feet, in the barren mountain deserts of Ladakh.

Thanks to the expertise of this young alumnus of Panjab University’s Geology Department, 22 hand pumps were functioning, yielding a heavy discharge of sweet, potable water, at Sonam Ling settlement in Choglamsar (13,000 ft.), near Leh, and an unspecified number at Thoise in the Nubra valley, which is at a height of 18,000 ft. The Indian Air Force maintains a base camp at Thoise for supplies to the Army’s Siachen glacier garrison.

These handpumps, considered to be the first-ever such devices at such high altitudes, were installed in June 1998 and have successfully withstood the harsh conditions of peak winter, when temperatures dipped to as low as -20° to -25° Celsius in the area. These had been hailed as a boon, both by the 5,000 odd residents of Sonam Ling and the defence establishment at Thoise.

Before the installation of these pumps, the residents of Choglamsar were forced to trek up to 4 km just to get a pail of water from the Sutlej, flowing nearly a 1000 ft below their settlement, and the establishment at Thoise had to undergo a similar ordeal in getting water from the Shyok.

Both rivers freeze during the severe winter, leaving no choice to the people of Choglamsar and Thoise except to melt snow with precious fuel for obtaining the barest minimum water. In fact, according to legend, the difficulties encountered on account of scarcity of water in Ladakh had lead the British to name the capital town, Leh, which was derived from the first letter of a local saying “life ends here”.

Ironically, even as lakhs of people living in Himalayas suffer chronic water scarcity, there were no takers for Dr Arya’s handpumps. He has since 1993 been propounding the theory that almost every Himalayan mountain peak, including Mt Everest, contained huge reservoirs of water that could provide a ‘perennial’ solution to the hill people’s water shortage. He had based his premise on the fact that the Himalayas, having emerged from a sea, had a lot of water underground.

As often happens with Indian scientists, Dr Arya got a break when a UK-based NGO got interested in his theory on “water aid”, enunciated in a paper which he read out in 1996 at an international conference in Beijing. Earlier, the “water aid” plan had been sought by the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government-in-exile, for assistance in providing round-the-year water supplies to the Sonam Ling settlement at Choglamsar.

After agreeing to finance the project, the NGO contacted the Central Ground Water Board which promptly discounted any possibility of finding any ground water in the area and advised installation of a lift water scheme on the Sutlej using diesel generator sets. This was hardly a solution, as both diesel and water remain frozen for long durations in winter. During his five-year stint with the IPH Department in HP, he helped instal 400 handpumps in mountain tracts.

However, the water aid plan provided a ray of hope and got him the contract to drill 15 borewells in 1998, after the hydrologist, raring to have a go at proving his theories, offered “no water, no money” terms.

The success of the first 15 handpumps lead to aid being given by another NGO — a French one — for the installation of another seven at Sonam Ling. After these too proved to be successful, the IAF invited Dr Arya to do a similar job at Thoise.

Dr Arya at a meeting with this correspondent here last week, strongly advocated an immediate shift from the current emphasis on tapping of surface water resources to the one on “conjunctive utilisation of both ground and surface water resources” in all hill states.

He was of the view that surface water alone could never meet the hill man’s need fully as the discharge of water in springs, streams, and rivers was wholly dependent on certain weather conditions. It got depleted substantially at times when water was needed the most — in summers. Heavy silting during the rains and freezing of water during winter were the other factors that had a bearing on surface water flow.


Now, going geothermal – Dr Ritesh Arya
Tribune News Service                                  

Chandigarh, February 16
The workshop on “Geothermal Development in Northwest Himalayas” organised by the Centre of Advanced Study in Geology, Panjab University (PU), and the department of civil engineering, National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, in association with INDNOR Project (an Indo-Norway joint venture) concluded today on the PU campus.

Dr Kristi of National Geotechnical Institute, Oslo, Dr Jiri Muller of Institute for Energy Technology, Oslo, and Dr Arni, Ice lands, Geo Survey, were the key speakers. The aim of the joint project was to study the geological and geo-technical conditions for generation of geothermal energy.

Prof SK Sharma, founder director, Energy Research Centre, PU, and presently professor emeritus, inaugurated the workshop and highlighted the efforts made earlier to harness energy resources of hot springs.

Dr Ritesh Arya introduced the theme and methodology to be adopted for the implementation of project.