Written by Rachel Pierstorff, ESLLC 2015-2016
For hundreds of thousands of people in India, the annual summer monsoon is both a blessing and a curse. The 200-300 average millimeters of rainfall that fall over the country during each summer month are not only often world-record setting, but essential to life in India. During the winter months, the interior of the country is parched and desert-like; the monsoon waters restore desperately needed moisture to that area and provide drinking water to populations that, without modern forms of water conservation, traditionally had to walk many miles to find water or get it delivered by cart.
Yet, these life-saving waters have a dark side as well. The coastlines of India are ravaged by the high winds, intense waves, and flooding that accompany the monsoon when it hits land. This not only poses many physical human dangers, but also other human health issues like the contamination of water, food spoiling, and increased threat of malaria.
The monsoon is fueled by the topography of the Indian subcontinent; after colliding with Asia, the landmass pushed up the lofty Himalayan Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau. These high regions are heated very rapidly by the sun, given the thin air at altitude. This warm air rises and draws in moist, fast moving air from the Indian Ocean, which manifests every summer as the monsoon.
The Indian Monsoon is only one example, albeit a dramatic one, or the immense power of water—both physically and as a controlling force of human lives.
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