Sonam Wangchuk, a Ladakhi engineer who conceived ice stupas as a way to irrigate farms in his home region, is the Indian Rolex Laureate for 2016.
Forty years ago, in September 1976, Rolex made history by announcing one of the world’s first major corporate awards programmes, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which supports exceptional individuals with the passion and commitment to improving life on the planet.
It was set up to mark 50 years of the historic achievement of the Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch. The objective was to create a programme that reflected the spirit of enterprise that inspired Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf to create this iconic timepiece.
Since then, Rolex Laureates, 140 of them, ranging in age from 24 to 74, have carried out projects benefiting millions of people in more than 60 countries by implementing technological and scientific innovations, protecting endangered species and ecosystems, exploring new frontiers, reviving time-honoured practices and protecting forgotten peoples, as well as providing safe, affordable water, energy, shelter, food, medicine and health care in developing countries.
The only Indian among the laureates who received the 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which was handed out at a ceremony in Los Angeles last month, is Sonam Wangchuk, a 50 year old Ladakhi engineer who has found a unique way of solving the water problems of farmers in the arid desert like conditions of this home region in western Himalayas. He created something called Ice Stupas, shaped like the Buddhist monuments, but using ice – read more about him in our Men Of The Year section in this issue.
Sonam’s project is among the five winners this year at the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. “The Rolex Awards were designed to support those whose own spirit of enterprise mirrored the enterprising spirit on which the company was founded,” says Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, “the idea was to encourage new ventures rather than reward past achievements and to recognize people who were doing things differently, exploring beyond boundaries and bringing often unconventional and ground breaking ideas to help change the world into the mainstream. Significantly, the programme reflects the Rolex brand values of quality, ingenuity and individual achievement.”