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Meghalaya

Half way to heaven

Geography of Meghalaya

According to the geography of Meghalaya, it is located in between Bangladesh in the south and the Brahmaputra valley in the north, in the north-eastern portion of India. The area of Meghalaya is 22,429 square kms. It has a total population of 1,774,778.

The rivers form an important part of the geography of Meghalaya. In the Garo hills, the major rivers are the Ringgi, Kalu, Ajagar, Sanda, Daring and Simsang. Among them, the navigable rivers are Kalu, Krishnai and Nitai. In the eastern and central parts of Meghalaya Plateau, the major rivers are Digaru, UmkhriKynchiang and Myntdu.

Meghalaya is geographically termed the Shillong Plateau or the Meghalaya Plateau. An important aspect of the geography in Meghalaya is its rock formations-some of which are the oldest. Meghalaya includes the Khasi, the Garo, the Jaintia hills and the Assam ranges at its border. Meghalaya represents the extension of peninsular India towards the north-east. The height of the dissected Meghalaya Plateau is 150 meters - 1961 meters above sea level.

The height and physical features greatly influence its climate, a major aspect of Meghalaya geography. The four major seasons of the state of Meghalaya are: the winter season (December - February), the rainy season (May - early October), the summer season (March - April) and again the cold season (early October - November).

The geography at Meghalaya also tells that it has diverse natural vegetation - the Garo hills tropical mixed forests to the high-altitude pine forests. Unplanned cutting and grazing has destroyed the natural vegetation of the place. Some forests are totally destroyed, while some other inaccessible ones are unaffected. Pine, sal, bamboo, etc are rampant in the region. The major crops are rice, potato, pineapple, maize, banana, etc. The subtropical forests of the region have birds, mammals and plants. The tiger has probably entered India through this region.

Location

Meghalaya lies in the north eastern region of the country. The state comprises of mountainous plateau. It has a length of about 300 kilometers from east to west and a width of 100 kilometers. The total land area of Meghalaya is around 22429 square kilometers. The location of Meghalaya in the north east makes it a perfect place for retreating.

The altitude of the Meghalaya ranges from 150 meters to 1961 meters, the Khasi Hills having the highest. They are followed by Jaintia Hills in the east. Garo Hills are basically plain with the highest peak i.e., Nokrek Peak having an elevation of 1515 meters. Megh means clouds and so Meghalaya means home of the clouds.

Another fact about Meghalaya location is that it shares the boundary with Bangladesh in the south and Assam in the north. The whole state has been divided into seven districts namely Jaintia Hills, South Garo Hills, East Garo hills, West Khasi hills, Ri-Bhoi, East Khasi hills and West Garo Hills.

About location of Meghalaya, one more thing can be pointed out i.e., the state comprises of a large deposit of important minerals such as silimanite, limestone, coal, uranium, etc. The location of Meghalaya is also favorable from the point of view of water resources as the state has many rivers amongst which the prominent ones are Bandra, Dareng, Digaru, Simsang, Myntdu, Bhupai and Bhogai.

The Meghalaya location in the eastern plateau has the impact on its climate too. The maximum temperature during summers is 25°C while that in winters is 16°C. The minimum temperature of Meghalaya during summers is 15°C while the same in winters is 4°C. The rains drop in between June and September. Hence the overall climate of Meghalaya is cool, thereby making it a perfect venue for holidaying.

Minerals

The wealth of a country or state is counted on the the collection of the minerals that it contains. Meghalaya is a state of the north eastern region which is blessed with natural resources. It is known as the queen of hills and is also recognized as a treasurer of many valuable minerals.

The Meghalaya minerals include the following:

  • Limestone
  • Coal
  • Gold
  • Clay and Kaolin
  • Sillimanite
  • Phospherite
  • Granite
  • Uranium
  • Iron-ores
  • Gypsum
  • Glass-sand
  • Quartz and Feldspar
  • Base Metal
Meghalaya minerals are largely used in mineral based industries. Tertiary coal is one of the best minerals of Meghalaya which is mainly sub-bituminous type. This coal is highly used in cement industries, textile industries, paper and rubber industries which brings a lot of revenue for the state. Meghalaya is well known for a depositor of world's best sillimanite which is mainly found in the West Khasi Hills. These natural sillimanite factories were formed in collaboration with corundum. Phospherite is a fertilizer mineral which is a natural resource for farming industries. This item is largely found in Sung Valley, Rewak area of Garo Hills and in Jaintia Hills Districts. According to the result of the Geological survey of India the collection of Phospherite in Meghalaya is about five millions.

About 5,000 million tonnes limestone is located in Meghalaya. Minerals in Meghalaya include collection of granite also. The granite deposits of Meghalaya are mainly seen in the northern and eastern parts of the Garo Hill district and in Jenjal and Hallidayganj. The minerals at Meghalaya also include a huge collection of valuable metals like gold and uranium.

The mineral map of India shows this state as a collector of minerals which is a big source of revenue and has given Meghalaya a respectable position in the country.

Meghalaya Rivers

There are many rivers in Meghalaya. Some of them are navigable, while some are not. The Meghalaya rivers are an inherent part of the state of Meghalaya. The main rivers of Meghalaya in the Garo hills that form the northern system and flow from west to east are the Chagua, Ajagar, Kalu, Dudnai, Didram, Ringgi and Krishnai. The Kalu and the Krishnai are only navigable of all the northern system. The main rivers that form the southern system are Bhogai, Daring, Sanda, Dareng, Bandra and Simsang. The biggest of all the rivers of the Garo hills is the Simsang, which is partially navigable (for about 30 kms). Some other rivers of the region that are suitable for navigation are Bhupai and Nitai.

The main rivers of the eastern and central regions of Meghalaya plateau that flow towards the north are Umiam, Umkhri and Digaru and some major rivers of the eastern and central regions of Meghalaya plateau that flow towards the south are the Barapani or Umiew, Mawpa, Kynchiang (Jadukata), Myntdu and Myngot. Some information about a few Meghalaya rivers are given below:

Someswari

This is the second longest and the biggest of all the rivers at Meghalaya. Its local name is Simsang. It originates from the Nokrek mountains and moves eastwards through Williamnagar, which is the East Garo Hills district headquarters, Rongrenggre, Siju, Nongalbibra, Baghmara, which is the South Garo Hills district headquarters and Rewak.

Jinjiram

It originates from the Derek village. Upot Lake is the origin of its major tributary. It moves eastwards, through the Goalpara border and the Goalpara district. Jinjiram is the longest river of the two districts of the Garo Hills.

Kalu

The local name of this river is Ganol. It originates at the Tura peak and runs westwards through Garobadha, Damalgre, Rangapani and Goalpara.

Meghalaya Population

Meghalaya population is around 23,06,069 with about 85 % of them being the tribals. The percentage might increase or decrease in some places in Meghalaya but the average percentage of population comprising the tribals is around 85%. The remaining 15% i.e., the non-tribal population at Meghalaya comprise of Bengalis and Sheikhs.

Khasis form the majority of the population in Meghalaya. They are followed by Garos. Other local tribes which might not be too prominent but constitute the population in Meghalaya are Jaintias, Koch, Hajong, Dimasa, Hmar, Mikir, Lakhar, Kuki, Rabha, etc.

The population of Meghalaya is not evenly distributed around the state. Shillong in Meghalaya comprises of majority of population in the state. Other places in Meghalaya where population is not scarce in comparison to the Jaintia hills, interiors of Garo hills and the northern and southern regions of Khasi hills are Tura, Baghmara, Nongstoin, Jowai, Williamnagar, Dawki, Cherrapunji and the north, west and south edges of Garo Hills.

As per the census of 2001, the total population around Meghalaya consisted of 28.66 % males and 31.27% females. The sex ratio between male and female was 1000:975. The growth rate of Meghalaya population is 29.94%. The literacy rate of population in Meghalaya is 63.31%.

The majority of the population at Meghalaya are in the rural areas. Most of the people in Meghalaya follow Christianity. They are followed by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. A large part of the north east population here also follow religions other then those listed above.

The main language of the population of Meghalaya are Khas, Garo, bengali and Nepali. Hindi, Rabha, Assamese, Koch, etc. are also used by some.

Meghalaya Climate

Meghalaya climate depends upon its altitude, the more high the altitude is, the more cooler and soothing is the climate. This is why Khasi and Jaintia hills have a very soothing climate where you can rejuvenate from your worldly pleasures amidst the nature's magnanimous beauty.

The region of Meghalaya where the temperature is too hot and humid in summers are Garo hills. The climate of Meghalaya is so in this region because of the low altitude of the place. On the other hand, Shillong experiences low temperature because of high altitudes.

Climate in Meghalaya changes with the augment of monsoon. The average yearly rainfall is around 2600 millimeters in the western part of the north eastern state while the northern Meghalaya receives an annual rainfall between 2500 to 3000 millimeters. The south eastern Meghalaya gets annual showers above 4000 millimeters. It is Cherrapunji that receives the highest rainfall somewhere around 12000 millimeters annually. With such high amount of rainfall, Meghalaya is the wettest state in India.

The climate at Meghalaya is neither too hot during the summers and nor too cold during the winters. The climate of Meghalaya is dry between November and April while it rains heavily between May and October. Winter season falls in December while it goes away by February. Summer then creeps in and stays till May and then the rainy season takes over the Meghalaya climate.

Topography

Meghalaya topography comprises of various elements including the landscape, climate, altitude, water bodies, flora and fauna of the entire region. Meghalaya is already known for its beautiful landscape and green vegetation. These elements of the topography of Meghalaya add charm to the picturesque state.

The topography at Meghalaya comprises of landscapes that have a blend of mountain and plateau regions and this is why it is also known as Meghalaya plateaus. The altitude of these plateaus range from 150 meters to 1961 meters. The highest altitude is that of the plateaus in the central region comprising of Khasi hills while the lowest is that of the Garo hills which has an altitude of 1515 meters and seems almost like a plain. The highest peak in Meghalaya is Shillong Peak at a height of 1961 meters.

The climate is also one of the major elements of Meghalaya. Though the climate remains moderate in all seasons, humidity is high in the interiors of Garo hills. The places where the altitude is high such as Shillong, the climate is cool and soothing. Meghalaya is the wettest state in India. The rainfall is not evenly spread in all regions but overall the state receives a large amount of rainfall with Cherrapunji receiving the highest around 12000 meters.

Forests, which are an integral part of the topography in Meghalaya, cover around 8514 square kilometers of the whole area of Meghalaya. Meghalaya comprises mainly two types of forests- tropical forests and temperate forests. The main occupation of people at Meghalaya is agriculture as the soil is fertile.

Rivers such as Manda, Janjiram, Simsang, Ganol, Khri, Umkhem, Kynshi, UmiamMawphlang, Myngot, Myntdu, etc. that flow across the terrain are also the significant components of Meghalaya topography. It is due to these seasonal rivers that Meghalaya gets water for its dense vegetation.

Soil Conservation

Meghalaya soil conservation policy is based on the National Land Use Policy in which land has been described as a mix of soil, water, flora and fauna. As per the policy, the main aim of soil conservation in Meghalaya is to develop and maintain the productivity of the land for agricultural purpose as well as for the management of forest.

The other aims behind soil conservation at Meghalaya is to:

  • Prevent droughts and floods by sustaining a balanced relationship between land and water cycle.
  • Checking destruction of watersheds from sedimentation, deforestation, land degradation, hydrologic deterioration and soil erosion.
  • Secure the employment in rural areas by creating employment opportunities.
  • Developing and maintaining spoiled land areas, wastelands and fallows so as to meet the growing demands of land for various sectors.
Hence to raise awareness for soil conservation around Meghalaya, the state government has set up a Soil and Water Conservation Department that looks after soil conservation in Meghalaya.

The department have initiated the following programs in this regard:

  • Jhum Control Programs: It looks after soil deterioration due to jhum or bun cultivation. The program lays stress on arranging a permanent settlement of jhummia family.
  • Watershed Management Programs: The program aims at using the land and vegetation resources for the optimum production at some selective micro watersheds.
  • Soil Conservation Programs: The program aims at removing the risks of soil erosion, land degradation, etc. The farmers have to take up the faulty farming practices.
For soil conservation of Meghalaya, measures such as erosion control, afforestation, terracing and reclamation, water conservation and distribution, water harvesting and conservation of farm ponds are taken up. Meghalaya soil conservation would thereby increase the productivity of the land thereby generating more revenue for the state economy.
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