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  • Aaryan Doshi

Wettest Place on Earth ... But No Water To Drink?

Wettest Place on Earth ... But No Water To Drink image: adobe firefly

Droughts and Aridity often go hand in hand. We see arid lands, and we say "due to drought," and we see "drought" and assume it is due to "extreme weather," i.e., lack of rains, and then we say "climate change."

Let me tell you about Cherrapunji. It is one of the wettest places on earth and receives close to 40 feet of rainfall annually. And yet folks in Cherrapunji still do not get enough water to drink.  All the water runs down the steep hills of the area.

The primary reason for this lack of forest cover is to retain the water. The reason for the depleted "green" cover is a style of farming called “jhum” resulting in the deforestation of the hills. In this style of agriculture, forests are cleared of trees and ground cover for farming for a few years, after which a different area is selected. Previously cleared regions are not provided enough time to replenish themselves and are cultivated more frequently resulting in soil degradation and nutrient deficiency. This creates a ground cover doom loop as intervening periods get increasingly shorter, resulting in more soil degradation. As a result, despite heavy rains, the Cherrapunji's terrain is unable to retain the water.

​Anthropogenic activity that harms our climate is not just limited to CO2 emissions. Cherrapunji is a reminder of how human-induced activity destroys the region's natural biodiversity, causing immense harm that is hard to "fix".  It also illustrates a recurring theme in the fight against climate change - immediate gains and pain points always get prioritized over longer-term benefits to future generations - by the time the there is realization, it is often too late to undo the harm.


Cherrapunji. (2024, April 15). Wikipedia.

Banerjie, I. (2014, January 14). Lack of water by indiscriminate deforestation to turn Cherrapunji into desert. India Today.


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