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Geography of Meghalaya

The state of Meghalaya (the abode of clouds) is geographically known as the "Meghalaya Plateau" or the "Shillong Plateau". The area is made of the oldest rock-formations. Meghalaya consists of the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills along with their outliers formed by the Assam ranges. It is the detached north-eastern extension of the Peninsular India. Part of it lies buried under the alluvium deposited by the Ganga-Brahmaputra system of rivers. This gap is known as Malda gap (between Raj Mahal hills/Chhota Nagpur and the Shillong Plateau).

Meghalaya Plateau's elevation varies between 150 meters to 1961 meters above sea level. The Plateau is highly dissected and has irregular terrain in the western and northern side. The southern side is marked by a continuous escarpment with steep slopes. The broken hills and ranges in the north are not of a well defined boundary. (Interactive map of Meghalaya)

The western part of the plateau or the Garo hills has an elevation of 600m above sea level. The most important relief feature of this part of the plateau is the Tura range with its highest point at Nokrek 1515 meters above sea level. The central and the eastern part of the plateau or the Khasi and the Jaintia hills district play prominent senile topography. This part of the plateau is characterised by the presence of many peneplained surfaces, flat-topped hills and numerous river valleys. The central upland zone is the most important relief feature of the area and covers more than one-third of the area, east of the Garo hills. The highest point of this part of this plateau and that of the entire state is the Shillong peak whose elevation is about 1965m above sea level.

In the Garo hills, the important rivers of the northern system from west to east are the Kalu, Ringgi, Chagua, Ajagar, Didram, Krishnai and Dudnai. Of these only the Krishnai and Kalu are navigable. The important rivers of the southern system are Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bhogai, Dareng and Simsang. Simsang is the largest river in the Garo hills and navigable only for about 30 Km. other navigable rivers are Nitai and the Bhupai.

In the central and eastern section of the plateau the important northward flowing rivers are Umkhri, Digaru and Umiam and the south-flowing rivers are Kynchiang (Jadukata), Mawpa, Umiew or Barapani, Myngot and Myntdu.

The climate of Meghalaya is moderate but humid. With average annual rainfall as high as 1200 cm in some areas, Meghalaya is the wettest state of India. The western part of the plateau, comprising the Garo Hills Region with lower elevations, experiences high temperatures for most of the year. The Shillong area, with the higest elevations, experiences generally low temperatures. The maximum temperature in this region rarely goes beyond 28 degrees, whereas winters temperatures of sub-zero degrees are common. The town of Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills south of capital Shillong holds the world record for most rain in a calendar month, while the village of Mawsynram, near town of Cherrapunji, holds the distinction of seeing the heaviest yearly rains.

Meghalaya is basically an Agricultural State with about 80% of its total population depending entirely on Agriculture for their livelihood. The total cropped area in the State has increased by about 42 per cent during the last twenty-five years. Food grain production sector covers an area of over 60 per cent of the total crop area. Food grains are grown in over 133 thousand hectares, nearly 60% of the state’s cultivated area. The production of food grains is over 230 thousand tonnes. Rice is the dominant food grain crop accounting for over 80% of the food grain production in the state. Other important food grain crops are maize, wheat and a few other cereals and pulses. Oilseeds such as rape and mustard, linseed, soybean, castor and sesame are grown on nearly 10 thousand hectares. Rape and mustard are the most important oilseeds accounting for well over two-thirds of the oilseed production of nearly 6.5 thousand tonnes. Fibre crops such as cotton, jute and Mesta had traditionally been among the only cash crops in Meghalaya, grown almost exclusively in Garo Hills. These have been losing popularity in recent years as indicated by their declining yield and area under cultivation.

The important fruits currently grown in the state include citrus fruits, pineapple, papaya, banana etc. The mandarin orange grown in Meghalaya is considered to be of very high quality. In addition to this, a large variety of vegetables are grown in the state including cauliflower, cabbage and radish.

In Meghalaya forests the rubber-yielding plant of Ficus elastica Roxb. belonging to the family of Moraceae is common. Lac and Gum are obtained from forests in Meghalaya. Meghalaya is famous for its honey, derived mostly from forests in beehives. Nowadays, honey is being collected in artificial boxes also, instead of hives on trees. The major crop plants of Meghalaya are Paddy, Maize, Millets, Pulses, Potato, Jute and Mesta, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Sugar Cane, Oil Seeds. Both arecanut and betelvine are important cash crops of the State. Khasis are used to chew betel nuts and betel leaves since time immemorial. The State is basically a home of many horticultural plants such as fruit bearing trees, cultivated fruit bearing plants, citrus varieties of fruits. Vegetables are grown extensively in the central plateau of the Khasi Hills with loamy soil and also in the plains of the Garo Hills. Recently Tea and Coffee are being grown in lands abandoned after jhuming.

Plants that Cure and Heal Different parts of many plants growing in Meghalaya have been put to medicinal use. Among the important and recognised medicinal plants found and cultivated in Meghalaya are Ipecac, Rauvolfia serpentina, Cinchona, Abromine, Chaulmoogra Oil, Croton Oil, Eucalyptus, Castor Oil, Chiretta, Solanum khasianum, Casearia vareca, Zanthoxylum armatum, Hedyotis scandens, Paederia foetida, Salix alba, Anacardium occidentale, Cinnamomum, Taxus baccata.

 Meghalaya is a storehouse of economic minerals. The major minerals that are presently exploited are Coal, Limestone, Clay and Sillimanite. These minerals are utilised in several mineral-based industries in the country. Besides, Coal and Limestone are also exported to Bangladesh, earning a good amount of foreign exchange.



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