Meghalaya is rich in natural resources like coal, uranium and is the only state with surplus power generation. It is known for its tourism potential. Agriculture is the mainstay of the people and plays a predominant role in the state’s economy. Its climate is not only ideal for the development of tourist and health resorts, but also for the growth of a large number of horticultural crops like fruits, spices and mushroom. Apart from such potential for agro-based industries, the state possesses rich deposits of limestone, coal and granite. Most of these natural resources are extracted and sent outside the state only in raw form. There are little value addition activities in the state. The Centre for monitoring Indian Economy index for infrastructure development for Meghalaya is 65 (in 1992-93), the reference point being 100 which is the national average.

The annual compound growth rate of the net state domestic product (NSDP) during the period from 1980-81 to 1996-97 has been worked out at 14.38 per cent at current prices and 4.45 per cent at constant (1980-81) prices. As far as the sector wise contribution is concerned, between 1980-81 and 1996-97, agriculture exhibited an annual compound growth rate of 11.41 per cent at current prices and 1.68 per cent at constant prices. Similarly, the manufacturing sector showed an annual growth rate of 14.53 per cent at current prices and 6.14 per cent at constant (1980-81) prices over the same period. In 1996-97, the contribution of the tertiary sector to the SDP was the highest, comprising more than half the state's SDP. In case of per capita income, Meghalaya continues to leg behind from the national average. In fact, in the recent few years the gap between the per capita income of Meghalaya and India has widened.

 Forest

         The State is basically an agricultural State. It has a total geographical area of 22,429 sq. kms. with a population of 17,74,778 (as per the 1991 Census). The total estimated forest area of the State is 8,514 sq. kms. of which only 722.36 sq. kms. are directly under the control of the State Forest Department. The remaining areas are managed by the respective District Councils of Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills as per provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. Except the reserved forest areas and protected forests in and around Shillong (being managed by the department in arrangement with the District Councils), the rest of the forest areas are subjected to the primitive agricultural practice of shifting cultivation or slash and burn method especially in Garo Hills. However, there are few pockets of undisturbed natural forests still in existence, comprising about 1000 sq. kms. being protected by the tribals as 'Sacred Groves'. Essentially they are located in strategic watershades and still play an important role.

The State, however, contain areas of very beautiful scenery with evergreen forests and waterfalls as well as areas of unique floral and faunal varieties. The reserve forests are managed under prescriptions of the working plan prepared for such forests by the Working Plan Unit of the Department. The protected forests are managed for preservation of the catchment areas of water sources.

The forests, which are not reserved forests are managed by the respective Councils. Under them, they have three kinds of forests, the old unclassed state forests which are directly under their control, the forests owned by the clans or communities and the private forests. For the and third categories, the District Councils have very little control except for collection of royalty when they export the timber outside their own area for trade.

Forest administration came to these areas,now constituted into the State of Meghalaya, sometime in the 1870s. As per records available, the first reserved forest to be notified was the Saipung Reserved Forest which was declared vide Notification No. 26 dated 25th July, 1876, and the last Reserve to be notified, after Meghalaya has come into being, is the Tura Peak Reserved Forest which was notified vide Notification No. FOR. 10/75/32 dated 23rd June, 1982. Following is the list of existing reserved forests and the date of their Notification alongwith the present area

Status of forest cover of Meghalaya:

Total area: 22,429sq. km

District

Area

Forest

East Khasi Hills

2748 sq. km

35.34%

West Khasi Hills

5247 sq. km

53.52%

Jaintia Hills

3819 sq. km

46.13%

West Garo Hills

3714 sq. km

54.45%

South Garo Hills

1850 sq. km

64.11%

East Garo Hills

2603 sq. km

58.38%

Ri Bhoi

2448 sq. km

50.24%

Forest type and density

    The forests of Meghalaya can broadly be grouped under the tropical type and the temperate type, mainly based on the altitude, rainfall and dominant species composition.

·         Tropical Forests

      These forests are met within areas upto an elevation of 1200m and with an average rainfall of about 100-250cm. There are numerous subtypes within this category such as evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist and dry deciduous forest, etc.

·         Tropical evergreen forests

       These forests usually occur in high rainfall areas as well as near catchment areas. They seldom form continuous belts due to various exogenous factors. But still, they harbour very rich species diversity, where nature is at its extravaganza forming a closed evergreen canopy. The trees exhibit clear zonation with dense and impenetrable herbaceous undergrowth.

·         Tropical semi-evergreen forests

         This category of forests occupies the north-eastern and northern slopes of the State, typically upto elevations of 1200m, where annual rainfall is 150-200cm with a comparatively cooler winter. The numbers of species here are fewer than the evergreen zone. There are also a few species in these forests which are deciduous in nature, such as Careya arborea, Dillenia pentagyna and Callicarpa arborea. Again there is a clear stratification of the trees in these forests.

·         Tropical moist and dry deciduous forests

       This type of forests occurs where annual rainfall is below 150cm and at comparatively low elevations. Typical natural deciduous forests do not occur anywhere in Meghalaya but are only subclimax or man-made forests. These forests are characterised by seasonal leaf shedding and profuse flowering of the trees. Recurrent forest fires are a common phenomenon here. Deciduous forests are much more extensive in their distribution in the State and include a host of economically important trees like Shorea robusta, Tectona grandis, Terminalia myriocarpa, Sterculia villosa, Logerstroemia flos-reginae, L. Porviflora, Morus laevigatus, Artocarpus chaplasha, and Gmelina arborea both as natural and as plantations. Schima wallichii, Artocarpus gameziana, Tetrameles mudiflora, Lannea coromandelica, Salmalia malabarica Erythrina stricta, Premna milliflora, Vitex peduncularis, Albizia lebbeck. Lucida, Terminalia bellirica etc is also in abundance. These trees of the deciduous canopy are always lofty and straight bole and with spreading crown.

·         Grass and Savannas

       Grasslands of Meghalaya are also not a climax type but are only as a result of removal of original forest cover. The rolling grasslands covering large areas can be seen throughout the Shillong plateau, around Riangdo, Ranikor, Weiloi, Mawphlang, Mawsynram, Cherrapunji, Shillong, Jowai, Jarain, and Sutnga in Khasi and Jaintia Hills and major parts of west Garo Hills.

·         Temperate Forests

       The temperate forests occupy the higher elevations about 1000m, mostly along the southern slope of Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The rainfall here is very high 200-500cm with a severe winter during November to March. Ground frost is also common during December to January.

Sacred Groves

The scared groves of Meghalaya largely fall under the temperate type and are the relic type evolved through millions of years. These are rich storehouse of vegetation wealth incomparable to any other type of forests in the State. These isolated pockets are untouched due to the religious beliefs and myths attributed to them. Many of the endangered species of the State are presently confined to these pockets only. Fagacaea members dominate over others in these sacred forests. Epiphytic flora is quite abundant and again dominated over by ferns and orchids.

 

Area in sq. km of Forest Type classes of different districts of Meghalaya

 

Class

East Khasi

West Khasi

Jaintia

West Garo

South Garo

East Garo

Ri Bhoi

Total

Sub tropical pine forest

111.88

341.07

54.52

-

-

34.97

542.44

542.44

Tropical semi-evergreen

170.68

221.53

503.31

480.79

292.18

453.87

337.19

2459.55

Tropical moist/ Dry deciduous

781.74

1568.67

828.39

1257.08

716.4

955.5

859.73

2459.55

Tropical dry deciduous and bamboo mix

127.66

677.1

382.27

316.99

177.49

110.29

-

6967.51

Degraded

577.27

852

462.97

656.3

110.67

360.27

364.3

1791.8

Grasslands

182.74

264.72

128.95

-

28.68

34.61

-

3383.78

Agriculture/ Non forest

760.21

1301.43

1430.93

914.04

470.68

675.42

793.19

621.7

Built up

16.46

-

-

-

-

-

-

16.46

Sandy area

4.05

18.29

13.21

33.17

38.17

9.18

13.54

129.61

Water bodies

15.31

20.19

14.45

55.63

15.73

3.86

45.08

170.25

Total

2748

5247

3819

3714

1850

2603

2448

22429

 

MINERAL RESOURCES:

     Meghalaya with its wealth of mineral deposits is a storehouse of industrial potential. There are extensive deposits of coal, limestone, granite, clay and other minerals.

·         Limestone: is major mineral occurs in an extensive belt (approx. 200 Km. long) along the southern border of Meghalaya. The quality of limestone found here varies from cement grade to chemical grade. Total inferred reserve of limestone within the State is put at about 5,000 million tonnes. The quality of limestone in the State has CaO content even upto 53 per cent and can be of great use to the steel, fertilizer and chemical industries.

·         Coal: deposits can be found in all districts and particularly in the Southern slopes of the State. This coal bears a low ash content and its calorific value ranges between 6,500 to 7,500 K Cal/Kg. The total estimated inferred reserve of coal is in the region of 560 million tonnes. The coal is mainly of sub-bituminous type and can be utilised in various industries ranging from power, fertilizer, cement and textile to paper, rubber, brick burning and pottery based industries. Value added chemicals like light medium and heavy oil, phenol, xynelol, producer gas etc. can also be recovered from such coal.

·         Granite: The state of Meghalaya is endowed with abundant sources of granite and other crystallised rocks which can yield tiles/blocks/monuments of very pleasant colours/shed (viz. black, pink, gray etc), finished and texture after its proper cutting and finish. Exploration of granite is going on and yet to be completed. Nongpoh, Mawkyrwat, Markasa, Siju area have got good prospect.

·         Clay: of various types such as Kaolin (China Clay), White clay and Fire Clay can be found in various parts of the state. These clays are suitable for the ceramic, paper, rubber and refractory industries. It has been estimated that there are a few hundred million tonnes of clay reserves in the State.

      Besides the above, other economically viable minerals like sillimanite, glass-sand, quartz, feldspar etc. also are available in various places in the State.

    Although the inferred reserves of these minerals are known, the final potentiality of these deposits, though being carried on, has to be proved by means of further drilling and detailed survey.

The estimated reserves of important minerals in Meghalaya are given in the Table below. It is to be noted that in terms of size of the estimated reserves, the most important mineral of the State is limestone, followed by coal, clay, Kaolin, glass sand, feldspar and sillimanite. In order to put these minerals resource to suitable industrial uses, it is essential to determine the characteristic of these geological resources and if necessary to arrange for beneficiation/conversion tests for their use in a particular industry. One of the essential functions for the assessment of geological and natural resources is a continuous process of exploration which would include geological mapping, core drilling and exploratory mining. This work is mainly being carried out by the Geological Survey of India of the Government of India and the Directorate of Mineral Resources of the State.

Estimated Reserves of Minerals in Meghalaya

Mineral

Reserves (In million Tonnes)

Areas where found

Limestone

Khasi Hills

2,537.000

Cherrapunjee, Laitryngew, Mawlong, Ishamati, Komorrah, Shella, Borsora

Jaintia Hills

1,050.000

Lumshnong, Sutnga, Nongkhlieh, Lakadong, Syndai, Nongtalang

Garo Hills

560.000

Darrang-Ear-Aning, Siju-Artheka, Chokpot

Meghalaya

4,147.000

 

Coal

Khasi Hills

164.500

Laitryngew, Cherrapunjee, Laitduh, Mawbehlarkar, Mawsynram, Lumdidom, Langrin, East Darrangiri, Pynursla, Lyngkyrdem, Mawlong-Shella-Ishamati and Borsora

Jaintia Hills

40.000

Bapung, Lakadong, Sutnga, Jarain, Musiang Lamare, Toksi, Khliehriat

Garo Hills

359.000

West Darranggiri, Siju, Pemdemgri-Balphakram, Selsela

Meghalaya

563.500

 

Kaolin

Khasi Hills

1.300

Mawkriah-Mawphlang, Smit, Laitlyngkot

Jaintia Hills

1.940

Thadlaskein, Shangpung, Mulieh, Mynsngat

Garo Hills

1.200

Daruggiri

Meghalaya

4.440

 

Clay

 

 

Khasi Hills

2.470

Cherrapunjee, Kut Madan, Mahadek, Sohrarim, Umsten

Jaintia Hills

0.500

Larnai, Tongseng

Garo Hills

78.000

Nangwalbibra, Nengkrah, Dobu, Rewak, Damukgithim, Tura, Rongram, Khobal, Rongrenggiri-Kherra, Songsak

Meghalaya

80.970

 

Sillimanite

Khasi Hills

2.045

Sonapahar, Nongstoin, Mawpomblang

Jaintia Hills

-

-

Garo Hills

0.001

Dapsi-Thologiri

Meghalaya

0.046

 

Glass Sand

Khasi Hills

2.400

Umstew, Kreit

Jaintia Hills

-

-

Garo Hills

0.140

Tura

Meghalaya

2.540

 

Quartz

Khasi Hills

0.020

Hahim, Mairang, Nongkhlaw

Jaintia Hills

-

-

Garo Hills

0.057

Tura, Bonsomgiri, Rombhagiri, Nengkhra

Meghalaya

0.077

 

Feldspar

Khasi Hills

0.020

Hahim, Mairang, Nongkhlaw

Jaintia Hills

-

-

Garo Hills

0.057

Tura, Bonsomgiri, Rombhabiri, Nengkhra

Meghalaya

0.128

 

 


Source: Technical Data on Minerals, Directorate of Mineral resources, Meghalaya