Obituary: Shri Sonam Dawa

Shri Sonam Dawa, 84, an inspirational engineer and philanthropist, passed away unexpectedly on 25 October 2018 at SNM Hospital, Leh. Shri Sonam Dawa was born on 18 October 1934 and grew up in Chemrey village, where he did his primary schooling at the Government Middle School. He later attended Government High School and was one of the few Ladakhi students to complete his matriculation in 1951. He went on to attend Amar Singh College, Srinagar, where he completed his higher schooling and secured a second rank in the state. One of his classmates, Abdul Ghani Shiekh said that “Ka Dawa was my class fellow in matriculation and he was an intelligent, brilliant, and hardworking student.”

Given his passion for Ladakh’s development and an interest in mathematics, he found his niche as an engineer and majored in civil engineering from Tirupati Engineering College, Andhra Pradesh in 1957. Shri Sonam Dawa then appeared and cleared the first Public Service Commission exam conducted in Jammu And Kashmir state. He soon joined as Assistant Engineer in Public Works Department, Leh. He used to enjoy his work and would remain consumed in it to the extent that he rarely went home for various festivals.

During his tenure, he contributed to the development of Ladakh and some of his biggest projects include the: Leh-Zangskar vehicular road, Leh-Nubra road, the roads that connect Puga and Korzok. Apart from this, he also supervised the construction of various bridges, including famous once such as those in Alchi and Choglamsar. By the time he took voluntary retirement, he had risen to the rank of Chief Engineer and his versatility and capabilities ensured that he was closely associated with various other sectors.

During his service in the government he served as a board member for Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board, as an Executive Councilor in LAHDC, Leh and as a member of Jammu and Kashmir Finance Commission. After leaving an indelible body of work in the government sector, Shri Sonam Dawa joined the social sector. He was one of the founding members of Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) and under his guidance LEDeG received many prestigious awards including the Right to Livelihood Award, which is known as ‘Alternate Nobel Prize’. He was also associated with the International Association for Ladakh Studies for several years. In his lifetime, Shri Dawa focused on the development of Ladakh and on empowering youth and women. According to his colleagues and friends, he was deeply dedicated to his work and was a very disciplined, visionary and honest person.

These are qualities for which he will be remembered for generations to come. Shri Dawa was an exemplary personality who endeared himself equally to friends and adversaries. His demise is a great loss for the people of Ladakh. I extend my deepest condolence to his family and friends. Shri Dawa is survived by his wife Norzin Angmo, sons, Sonam Kunskyabs and Jamyang Namgail, and daughter, Nilza Angmo.