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Real-life Rancho develops world’s first solar-heated tent for troops stationed at Indo-China border in Ladakh

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SRINAGAR: Sonam Wangchuk, the 54 year engineer-turned-educator who inspired Aamir Khan’s reel-life character of Phunshok Wangdo in 3 Idiots, has made the country proud by developing the world’s first solar-heated tent for the troops stationed in high-altitude areas of Ladakh.

It took Wangchuk led Himalayan institute of Alternative Ladakh (HAIL) one month to create the tent which is being seen as a game-changer for the troops deployed in high altitude and treacherous mountains in Ladakh and elsewhere.

 

“We have gained expertise in solar-heated homes for the last 25 to 30 years. Now we have come up with solar-heated tents. It was my 15-year-old innovation. It was first used in Chang Thang area for Pashmina shepherds,” he said in a video message.

The innovation was spurred by the recent tensions on Indo-China border and deployment of huge forces by both countries. “This time our troops were deployed in Galwan and there is bone-chilling cold. They face problems. We worked on the project at the University and created a passive solar heated tent. Our soldiers can live in the tent and heat can be drawn from the solar energy. Neither Kerosene needs to be burnt nor smoke will pollute the air,” he said.

There are two parts of the tent. “The portion is the greenhouse area where solar energy enters. The rear is a sleeping chamber where troops can sleep. It is highly insulated. It is like a sleeping bag. It is covered by a wind sheet waterproof cover. There are two important parts — the solar lounge and sleeping chamber. During the day, troops can do work. It is very hot. The sleeping chamber remains hot during the night. There is a heat bank that keeps the tent warm at the night.  We have used sleeping bag layers. We expect 10 to 15 degrees temperature during the night,” he said.

The tent is very cost-effective. It costs Rs five lakh.  The iron container used as a shelter for troops costs around Rs nine to Rs 10 lakh. “One lakh kiloliter of fuel is burnt in Ladakh. That releases three lakh tones of carbon dioxide. This tent is cost-effective. I have made this tent and it is a gift to the army on my behalf,” he said.

Wangchuk said nearly 50,000 troops were deployed by India and China on borders recently. “It was a difficult situation for both sides. Mothers of both sides lost their sons here. When troops are deployed in such cold mountains, they have to live in cloth-made tents or iron containers. Lakhs of liters of Kerosene is a brunt that puts pressure on the government exchequer. This oil is being imported from other countries not to talk of environmental pollution. Troops have to face a lot of difficulties. There have been fire incidents and troops die in these accidents,” he said.

Wangchuk said both India and China are now disengaging on borders. “It is really good news for the entire world,” he said.