Meghalaya is a small state in north-eastern India. The word “Meghalaya” literally means “The Abode of Clouds” in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long (east-west) and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 22,429 km². The population numbered 2,175,000 in 2000. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong, which has a population of 260,000.
About one third of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its montane forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests of Meghalaya are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants.
Geographically, the State of Meghalaya is also known as the “Meghalaya Plateau”. It consists mainly of archean rock formations. These rock formations contain rich deposits of valuable minerals like coal, limestone, uranium, sillimanite etc. Meghalaya has many rivers. Most of these are rainfed and are therefore seasonal. The important rivers in the Garo Hills Region are Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bhogai, Dareng and Simsang, Nitai and the Bhupai. In the central and eastern section of the plateau the important rivers are Umkhri, Digaru, Umiam, Kynchiang (Jadukata), Mawpa, Umiew or Barapani, Myngot and Myntdu. In the southern Khasi Hills Region, these rivers have created deep gorges and some of the most beautiful waterfalls.
The elevation of the plateau ranges between 150 m to 1961 m. The central part of the plateau comprising the Khasi Hills has the highest elevations, followed by the eastern section comprising the Jaintia Hills Region. The highest point in Meghalaya is the Shillong Peak which is also a prominent IAF station. in the Khasi Hills overlooking the city of Shillong. It has an altitude of 1961 m. The Garo Hills Region in the western section of the plateau is nearly plain. The highest point in the Garo hills is the Nokrek Peak with an altitude of 1515 m.
Meghalaya currently has 7 districts. These are: East Garo Hills, East Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi, South Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and the West Khasi Hills.
The East Garo Hills district was formed in 1976 and has a population of 247,555 as per the 2001 census. It covers an area of 2603 square kilometres. The District Headquarters are located at Williamnagar, earlier known as Simsangiri.
The East Khasi Hills district was carved out of the Khasi Hills on 28 October 1976. The district has covers an area of 2,748 square kilometres and has a population of 660,923 as per the 2001 census. The headquarters of East Khasi Hills are located in Shillong.
The Jaintia Hills district was created on 22nd February 1972. It has a total geographical area of 3819 square kilometres and a population of 295,692 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters are located at Jowai. Jaintia Hills district is the largest producer of coal in the state. Coal mines can be seen all over the district.
The Ri-Bhoi district was formed by further division of East Khasi Hills district on 4th June 1992. It has an area of 2448 square kilometres. The total population of the district was 192,795 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters are located at Nongpoh. It has a hilly terrain and a large part of the area is covered with forests. The Ri-Bhoi district is famous for its pineapples and is the largest producer of pineapples in the state.
The South Garo Hills district came into existence on 18th June 1992 after the division of the West Garo Hills district. The total geographical area of the district is 1850 square kilometres. As per the 2001 census the district has a population of 99,100. The district headquarters are located at Baghmara.
The West Garo Hills district lies in the western part of the state and covers a geographical area of 3714 square kilometres. The population of the district is 515,813 as per the 2001 census. The district headquarters are located at Tura.
The West Khasi Hills district is the largest district in the state with a geographical area of 5247 square kilometres. The district was carved out of Khasi Hills District on 28th October 1976. The district headquarters are located at Nongstoin.
Coal and limestone are the only major minerals mined in the state. Coal occurs in Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills districts. The production of upgraded coal comes from these areas from private non-captive unorganized sector. The mines are operated mostly by the local tribals in their private lands. Resources of limestone occur in West Garo Hills, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills districts.
Other mineral occurrences are apatite in Jaintia Hills district; china clay in East Garo hills and West Garo hills, Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills districts; copper, lead-zinc, silver and titanium minerals in East Khasi Hills district; feldspar and rock phosphate in East Garo hills and Jaintia Hills districts; fireclay in East Khasi Hills and West Garo Hills districts; granite in West Khasi Hills district; quartz and silica sand in East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and East Khasi Hills districts; and sillimanite in West Khasi Hills district.