Cats and Dogs
World’s highest rainfall and still no water to drink.
Cherrapunji is a town in Meghalaya, a northeastern state of India, bordering Bangladesh. Meghalaya is so beautiful that it has been called “the Scotland of the East.” Not surprisingly, its very name means “abode of the clouds.” But why has Cherrapunji long been regarded as one of the wettest places on earth? Although India has faced water shortages and droughts, within India this wonderful place exists at a place where it rains every day or night, leading the people to crave for sunlight. People inhabiting the place for many years have found amazing ways to make themselves adaptable to the rain during the monsoon season. The rain and the unique methods adopted to combat the excessive rain are a treat for the tourists who throng
the place during heavy rainfall.
For those who have visited Meghalaya or Cherrapunji, they know how the dark clouds form and scare you with the prospect of raining cats and dogs. There are wonderful flowers, including some 300 species of orchids and a unique species of the carnivorous pitcher plant. Moreover, there is a wide variety of wildlife to admire and there are living bridges made out of roots to explore.
According to the official website of Meghalaya tourism, “Sohra, previously known as Cherrapunjee, a sub-division of the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, is set upon a plateau on the southern slopes of the state. Sohra is dotted with waterfalls cascading over deep gorges. The swift flowing rivers and streams flow in a southerly direction towards the plains. Sohra is 56 kms from Shillong and is literally the high point of any visit to Meghalaya. A It is an eco-friendly destination and is known for receiving the highest rainfall in the world. Set against the backdrop of a breathtaking landscape, it is a place to discover the Indian summer monsoons - a unique annual meteorological phenomenon directly influenced by the southwest monsoon and the northeast winds. The heavy monsoon rains over these mountains undoubtedly create in Sohra one of the rarest bio-diverse vegetations in the world. It is truly a beautiful corner in north-east India, waiting to be discovered and explored.
The four main seasons of Meghalaya are Spring (i.e. March to April), Monsoon (May to September), Autumn (October to November) and Winter (December to February).
The temperature starts warming up by the third week of May and continues right to the end of September and sometimes extends well into the middle of October. The average rainfall is 12,000 mm a year, with the maximum rainfall occurring over the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills in Sohra. The highest recorded total annual rainfall was 24,555 mm in 1974. The maximum for a single day was recorded in 1876 in Sohra, when 1,040 mm fell in 24 hours. Sohra also holds the world record for a month's rainfall when 9,300 mm fell in July 1861.
The old Cherra or Sohrarim was the original Cherra village but with the coming of the British who set up their headquarters further south, the village came to be known as 'Sohra' or the present day Cherrapunjee. It was here that the British realized the enormity and intensity of the rainfall and set up a meteorological office for measuring the rain.
Sohra was declared by the British to be the capital of Assam in 1832, which was later shifted to Shillong in 1866 due to the inclement weather.”
Cherrapunji is 4,000 feet [1,300 m] above sea level. Tropical regions experience heavy rainfall when the sun evaporates a large volume of water from the warmer parts of the oceans so when water-laden winds from the Indian Ocean strike the southern slopes of the Himalaya Mountains and are forced to rise, they unload themselves in the form of torrential rains. The Meghalaya plateau is a major receiving ground. Moreover, it appears that since this high area receives the full power of the tropical sun in the daytime, the rain clouds rise and hover above the plateau until the air cools them towards the evening. This may explain why much of the rain falls at night.
According to an unusual places website, ‘The village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya annually receives 467 inches of rain. The outdoor workers often wear waterproof suits made from bamboo and banana leaves. These labourers walk into Mawsynram under the traditional Khasi umbrellas known as knups. Made from bamboo and banana leaves, the knups are favored for allowing two-handed work, and for being able to stand up to the high winds which lash the region during heavy rainstorms. The most unusual and gorgeous sights in the region are the “living bridges” spanning rain-soaked valleys. For centuries, locals have been manipulating the roots of rubber fig trees that grow into natural arches, far outlasting man-made wooden structures that rot in just a few years. The bridges are self-strengthening, becoming more substantial over time, as the root systems grow.’
The village of Mawsynram claims to have the highest average rainfall on earth. Perched atop a ridge in the Khasi Hills of India’s northeast, the village receives 467 inches of rain per year – thirteen times that of Seattle. The heavy rainfall is due to summer air currents sweeping over the steaming flood plains of Bangladesh, gathering moisture as they move north. When the resulting clouds hit the steep hills of Meghalaya they are “squeezed” through the narrow gap in the atmosphere and compressed to a stage where they can no longer hold their moisture, causing the near constant rain the village is famous for.
It is hard to believe that with so much rain, this region could ever experience a water shortage. Yet, that is the most unfortunate part. It is during the winter months that the area faces the worst water shortage. Where do the monsoon torrents go? Because of extensive deforestation just outside Cherrapunji, most of the rain pours off the high plateau, filling the rivers of the plains, which flow mainly into Bangladesh. To conserve this natural resource of water, the damming of streams and the construction of reservoirs are projects which are being considered. But according to the tribal king of Mawsynram, G. S. Malngiang, there have been “no serious efforts to solve the water problem.”