Mawsynram, 9 km from Sohra, more famous by its erstwhile name Cherrapunjee, is the wettest place on earth. Over the last few years, it received an average rainfall of 467.4 inches of rain. Both these places are in Meghalaya. Now, Mawsynram's position is under challenge from a mountain in Hawaii.
Sohra, which receives 450 inches of rain annually, is not even the second-wettest place on earth. It has been upstaged by Mount Waialeale on the Hawaii Islands, which gets 460 inches of rain every year.
“We still have Mawsynram, but Mt Waialaele is a wake-up call for better ecological management,” said R.G. Lyngdoh, former minister and chairman of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum.
“The US has been pushing Mt Waialeale for quite some time now. Yes, it rains almost everyday, albeit lightly, on that 5,148 ft mount owing to marine conditions. But the fact is, Sohra and Mawsynram record more rainfall during the monsoons. And while the rainfall area on Mt Waialeale is 5 sq km, Sohra-Mawsynram is over 200 sq km,” naturalist-entrepreneur Denis P. Rayen told HT from Sohra.
Meteorologists agree that Sohra has been recording less rainfall in recent years — 11,414.6 mm or 449.4 inches in 2008 compared to 14,790.8 mm or 582.31 inches in 2004. Ditto with Mawsynram, where rainfall records are maintained periodically.
“There isn’t much deviation in the average annual rainfall but the spread is less,” said D.K. Handique, director of the Regional Meteorological Centre here.
According to Lyngdoh, deforestation has turned much of the Sohra area into a rocky, barren expanse, and this could eventually dent Mawsynram's record. “Along with local organizations, we are promoting green measures,” he said.
The Khasi Students’ Union, too, is pulling its weight to help Sohra regain its rainier-than-Mt Waialeale record. “Two places are better than one; so we have launched a crusade against felling trees as well as unscientific limestone quarrying while safeguarding livelihood,” said KSU leader Samuel Jyrwa.
Ecologists are blaming it on global warming and on local factors like deforestation and limestone quarrying. But they aren’t ready to concede “defeat” yet.