Ladakhi engineer, education reformer and innovator, Sonam Wangchuk, is at it once again

In an announcement made on Twitter last night, Sonam revealed that his team at the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL) have developed the prototype of a unique solar-heated tent for Indian Army soldiers stationed in the cold and high-altitude climes of Ladakh.

Exhibiting its insular properties in his tweet, Sonam noted how temperatures inside the tent stood at +15 degrees Celsius at 10 pm on a day when the minimum temperature outside was -14 degrees Celsius. Besides offering more space than the container cabins the Indian Army uses for its soldiers, this structure requires no kerosene for heating purposes and thus emits zero pollution into the environment.

“This is the second prototype of a solar-heated tent I have made. The first one was made about a decade ago for nomads living in the Changthang region, who are constantly on the move but require an upgrade in their living facilities. While people in cities can live comfortably in solar passive houses, these nomads live in smoky old tents with a big gaping hole at the top for the smoke to go out. This leaves them in the cold and in bad health. Unfortunately, the government did not pick up on this innovation and instead continued distributing cotton tents for them, which I thought was a bad idea,” Sonam says.

Although this innovation didn’t get picked up, the idea of making a solar-heated tent stayed with him. However, things dramatically changed in the past winter when the Indian Army sent its troops to locations like the Galwan Valley following the recent standoff with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“Suddenly, the Army had to station a large number of soldiers in places where suitable accommodation was barely present through the winter, which meant they brought with them things unsuitable for the local environment. Our soldiers, for example, brought large quantities of kerosene which they burnt to keep themselves warm. This is not only a drain on the state exchequer and a massive onslaught against the local environment but also creates serious discomfort for soldiers since kerosene-powered heating is prone to fire accidents. All these reasons made me think about refining the prototype for military use,” he says.