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Development of an Integrated Watershed Management Plan for Treatment of Severely Eroded Watersheds in Cherrapunjee Using GIS

A. K. Mishra
Scientist SS (SWCE)
WTC, IARI, New Delhi-12,
Email : akmrday@yahoo.com

A. K. Singh
Project Director,
WTC, IARI, New Delhi-12

S. N. Das
Chief Soil Survey Officer,
AISLS, Min. of Agril. G.O.I., IARI, Buildings, IARI, New Delhi-12

S. P. Singh
Head, NBSSLUP,
Regional Station, New Delhi, IARI, new Delhi -110012



Abstract
Natural resources degradation is a burning issue in India in general and the North Eastern Himalayan region in particular. Both biotic and abiotic factors are responsible for severe degradation of land and water resources. Natural resources of Cherrapunjee, the place having the world’s highest rainfall, are in a serious state of the degradation owing to different factors such as, steep slope, soil, land use, topography, geomorphology, shifting cultivation, open cast mining and socio-economic settings. An effort was initiated for developing a technically viable and economically feasible and sociologically acceptable integrated watershed management plan using Remote Sensing and GIS. Wah Dainthelen watershed, having an area of approximately of 31 sq. km. was delineated for the study which was further subdivided in to 2 sub-watersheds and 35 micro-watersheds surrounding the Cherrapunjee town in Meghalaya. Data were organized in different layers Arc View 3.1 GIS. The morphological parameters were estimated for all the delineated 35 micro-watersheds. For devising the watershed management strategy, analysis for runoff and soil loss of each micro-watershed having area of about 50-400 ha, were undertaken. Watersheds were prioritized based on the degree of erosion, runoff, morphological criteria and hypsometry as well as extent of degradation. The type, location and strategies for constructing soil and water conservation measures have also been suggested for implementing the watershed management plan for arresting degradation and rejuvenating the area. For conservation of water in the watersheds, loose rock filled check dams with reinforcements, concrete masonry check dams, medium sized dams, water harvesting ponds (dug out cum embankment type) and roof top rainwater harvesting options have been proposed at appropriate locations, whereas for land resources conservation, a comprehensive strategy including stone pitched contour bunds, afforestation, horticulture and different farming system option have been recommended.

1.0 Introduction
The natural resources condition of the North-Eastern Himalayan region of India can be referred to be as one of the most deteriorated and alarming. Large-scale deforestation, improper utilization of steep hill slopes by Shifting Cultivators (Jhumias), faulty land use and water resources management in collaboration with relatively very high rainfall have caused havoc as for as the resources are concerned. Not only it has rendered large tracts nonproductive, barren and completely degraded needing to be restored for future utilization but also resulted in to shifting of the place of highest average annual rainfall from Cherrapunjee to Mawsynram. Cherrapunjee, that used to receive one of the world’s heaviest average annual rainfall, the human interventions have changed the landscape from one of the most dense, lush green Rain Forests to a Wet- Desert. Since long the need was being felt to make some kind of effort to treat and reclaim the severely degraded Cherrapunjee area to restore its exotic scenic beauty and prince tine grandeurs.

1.1 Natural Resources Scenario in Cherrapunjee
Natural resources degradation is a burning issue in India in general and the North Eastern Himalayan Region n Particular. Both natural and biotic factors are responsible for land degradation. The steep slopes, geological settings, topography in association with high rainfall are the major natural factors resulting in the degradation of natural resources. The human interventions in the form of deforestation, shifting cultivation (Jhum), cultivation on raised beds on steep lands along the slopes, burning of the forest floors, open cast mining etc. are the abiotic catalysts under the influence of which the process of land degradation become more severe resulting into a volley of problems.

Cherrapunjee, a well known place worldwide for its highest annual average rainfall in the world (> 11000 mm) which has now shifted to Mowsynram, another village near it; due to its altered climate. The deforestation resulted hazards associated with faulty land use practices of Shifting Cultivation (JHUM), BUN method of cultivation of raising crops on raised beds along the slope, unscientific and unabated open cast mining and querying of Coal, Sand and Limestone from the privately owned mines (except in Meghalaya there is no private ownership of mines in India) have created havoc from the resources point of the view.

The landscape is completely void of any kind of erstwhile dense forest and highly depleted flora and fauna expect the narrow gullies whose moisture regime remains higher in post monsoon season, dwindling or complete drying of perennial stream, exposed rocks and boulders, creation of revineous structures, land slips along the highways and complete degradation of the watershed.

The adverse effects are reflected in absolute poverty of the indigenous tribals of Khasi origin, unavailability of drinking water in post-monsoon period, absolutely no soil or very shallow soils unproductive for cultivation of crops or horticulture/forestry.

Thus, the Cherrapunjee watershed needs immediate attention of planners, policy makers, attention of researchers, and the participation of beneficiaries for its restoration and rejuvenation in order to safeguard the remaining resources and avert any catastrophe in the days to come. For treatment and management of Cherrapunjee watershed; a huge project supported either by the GOI, World Bank or any other donor agency is highly required to bring the watershed to normalcy. For this the watershed is required to be surveyed, studied thoroughly and the treatment plans have to be made in the light of local constraints of the area.

The conservation of natural resources will be able to bring about a sea change on the quality and quantity of the resources. The scientifically designed cropping sequences, crop planning according to the land use capability classifications, reclamation of degraded lands etc. will definitely result in the increased production and productivity of the watershed. Moreover, the long term resources sustainability of the resources for future generations can also be ascertained by the way of watershed treatment. Though, the present work aimed at planning the watershed management and devising the strategies for conservation and efficient utilization of resources yet it will have indirect effect in solving the problems of resources degradation. The specific objectives of the present study were:
  1. Characterization of the watershed and prevalent land use systems of the selected watershed through remote sensing and GIS,
  2. Analysis and quantification of the degree and extent of resources degradation, soil erosion and water losses in the selected watershed,
  3. Identification of the locations where immediate interventions are desired to arrest the resource depletion;
  4. Generation of appropriate watershed treatment plans by identification of types of management practices required using resources conservation algorithms; and
  5. To study the feasibility of solutions under local constraints and correction/modification of the watershed management plan.
2.0 Material and Methods
To fulfill the above objectives in the stipulated time frame the following plan of work was adopted:

Procurement of Survey of India topo-sheets of different scales (Base Maps, crocurement of Remote Sensing Imageries corresponding to desired passess, collection of meteorological data and secondary information of resources position, socio-economic, agricultural, forests, water resources, geology etc., of the selected area, demarcation of the Watershed boundaries (Watershed delineation) and database digitisation, creation of GIS databases on topography, contours, DEM, drainage network, soil types, forest area and type, mining area, habitats, road network, various levels of degradation, stream orders and confluence points etc. using the image interpretation, classification and ground truthing etc., generation of various maps, identification of degree and extent of resources degradation and map preparation, identification of critically eroded areas requiring various levels of watershed treatment, generation of a comprehensive watershed management/treatment plan, various techniques to be used, structures and the design of various structures, constraints and feasibility study of the watershed management plans and applying suitable corrections etc.

2.1 Study Area

2.1.1 Wah Dainthelen Watershed Cherrapunjee

Cherrapunjee (Latitude 25° 17/ N; Long 91° 44/ E ) is located at an altitude of about 1310 m above mean sea level in East Khasi hill district near the southern boundary of the state of Meghalaya with Bengladesh. The area is inhabited mainly by the tribal population. The township has been famous till recently for recording the highest rainfall in the world. However, now the highest rainfall receiving area has shifted to Mowsynram, another place in Meghalaya. The area is suffering from acute scarcity of drinking water during the months from October to March. As a result at places vast stretch of plain land is without any inhabitation. Acute scarcity of drinking water in the midst of super abundance of precipitation is quite paradoxical and the place resembles a wet desert.

Cherrapunjee is spread over three different altitude levels that are locally known as Upper, Middle and Lower Cherrapunjee. The present population of the township is about 20,000. Water supply is based on springs located 8 to 10 km away. No open well/tube well is existing in the area. People are accustomed to traditional water supply from springs. Private Organizations like Mawmluh Cherra Cement Factory (MCCL), Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, lime kiln plant etc. have separate arrangement of water supply from spring source. The location of Cherrapunjee is depicted in the Fig. 1. A watershed having an are of 31 sq. km has been delineated using established procedures and named as Wah Dainthelen Watershed. Which was further subdivided into sub-watersheds and 35 micro watersheds for detailed study and planning purposes.


Fig. 1.0 Location Map of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya

2.1.2 Topography
Topographically Cherrapunjee area may be divided into two regions viz, the southern region and the northern region, with roughly Kutmadan,Mawsmai – Mawmluh areas (i.e South of Cherrapunjee) as the dividing latitude compared to southern region is more flat and table land like, higher in altitude compared to southern region with deep gorges of rivers and rivulets flowing southward and is much less fertile than south. The southern region is mostly comprised of undulating terrains, forest and mountain slopes, sloping towards Bangladesh. The map of the watershed is depicted in the Fig. 2.


Fig. 2.0 Contour map of a part of Wah Dainthelen Watersheds (MWS18)

2.2 Geomorphology
Cherrapunjee is located on the southern fringe of the Shillong Plateau, at a distance of 55 km from Shillong the state capital of Meghalaya. The southern border of Meghalaya with Bangladesh is characterized by an almost E-W trending escarpment with the altitude sharply dropping by almost 1000 m to the flat plains of Bangaladesh. The hydrogeomorphological map of E. Khasi hills prepared by NRSA, Hyderabad shows Chenrrapunjee area as a moderately dissected plateau comprising gently undulating hills with steep gorges and waterfalls on the eastern, southern and western sides. The drainage pattern is sub-dendritic with deep gully erosion.

2.3 Geological Settings
Cherrapunjee area forms a part of Shillong plateau of Pre-Cambrian Quartzites and Phyllites intruded by epidioritic rocks popularly known as “ Khasi Green Stone”. The southern part of plateau is occupied by basaltic lavas known as Sylhet traps which are capped by Cretaceous and Eocene sediments. The narrow belt of Eocene rocks is exposed all along the southern edge of the escarpment and foot hills. The Eocene sequence or the oldest tertiary rocks belonging to the Jaintia Series Comprise two sub-divisions – Shella Formation and Kopili formation. Shella formation consists of mainly sandstone and limestone which is overlain by Kopili formation comprising Sandstone, Shale with thin fossil ferrous limestone. The Shella sandstone in and around Cherrapunjee is about 90- 120 meters. They are almost horizontal with a gentle southward dip at places. This is conformably overlain by the Shella limestone with no sign of break. Some tertiary coal seams are also found near Cherrapunjee. This coal seam is thin and is mined by surface quarrying. The limestone is. The limestone is Karstified and is quarried extensively at places.

2.4 Rainfall and Climatic Patterns
The Indian summer monsoon which is a unique annual meteorological phenomenon, starting its journey over Mascarenhas high near Madagaskar reach its ecstacy at Cherrapunjee delivering downpower that would make most parts of the world flooded. The South – West monsoon clouds coming from the Bay of Bengal cross the Bangladesh plains and meet the East-West trending escarpment in Meghalaya at an average altitude of 1000m to 1300m. This gives rise to heavy seasonal rainfall all along the southern part of Meghalaya. The highest rainfall occurred till very recent years at Cherrapunjee. But now the heaviest rainfall has been recorded at Mawsynram located west of Cherrapunjee.

2.5 Hydrogeological Conditions
Ground water occurs in the area under water table conditions in the thin colluvial deposit over limestone or sandstone. Depth to water table rests within 2 m below ground level (bgl). Both Kopili limestone and underlying Shella sandstone are massive. Data available so far, indicate that the limestone is not cavernous and hence does not form repository of ground water. The underlying sandstone is massive, consolidated and hard and does not form saturated zone at economic depth. However, available data indicate that ground water occurs in this deeper zone under semi- confined to confined conditions. Depth to water level rests at 45 m bgl. Copious flow of springs occur in many places in the area most of which originate along lithological and stratigraphical contacts.

3.1 Identification and selection of Watersheds
Several field visits and traversing of the area made before and after grant of the projects wee not quite sufficient to identify the particular watershed to be worked with. It was felt however, looking to the natural resources conditions in the whole Cherrapunjee area that are in ensembles therefore, need the attention of scientific community, environmentalist, conservationists, planners, policy makers and Governmental agencies for treatment and restoring. The efforts were made to acquire the topographic maps of the Cheherrapunjee area from the office of Surveyor General of India through the North eastern Regional office. These areas being the border areas and have military strategic importance have been grouped under RESTRICTED area and the RESTRICTED maps of these areas are not easily available. However, with constant persuasion and efforts it was possible to acquire the 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scale maps of the Cherrapunjee area (Topo Sheet No. 78 O/11/SE and 78 O/15/SW) 91 o 37/ 30// to 91 o 45/ and 91 o 45/ 15// to 99 o E longitudes respectively and 25 o22/ 30// to 25 o 15/ North latitude. These cover a part of the whole Cherrapunjee area but some area of Cherrapunjee falls beyond 25 o 15/ North latitude. That is supposed to be covered in the Topo-sheets No. 78 O/12/NE and 78 O/16/NW. The above two topo-sheets are not under PUBLISHED category of the Survey of India due to the INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY with BANGLADESH which seems to be disputed. Therefore, these topo-sheets are not made available to ANYBODY. Hence, the whole area under Cherrapunjee Sub-Division could not be viewed together for identification and delineation of a Macro watershed. The reason for this is, the emote Sensing Data in the form of FCC have to be REGISTERED with the topographic sheets of the Survey of India. In absence of the relevant topo-sheet it is not possible to register the FCCs and this will affect the correctness of the solutions obtained.

3.2 Watershed Delineation
Following the criterions for selection of the watersheds a watershed of approximately 31.5 sq. km of area, having severe degradation of the land resources, covering the major part of Cherrapunjee has been selected for the purpose of the above study with the help of an expert the Central Soil and water Conservation Training and research Institute, Dehardun namely; Dr. K. P. Tripathy, Principal Scientist and Principal Investigator NATP on Watershed Technology (Mission Mode). The watershed boundaries have been delineated from the topographic sheets at 1: 50,000 and 1:25000 scale. The 1: 25000 sheet is quite clear and in the subsequent visits of the watershed the prominent features appearing in the toposheets have been duly verified and found correct. The identified watershed has a large number of small streams, and three prominent drainage channels the main being PYNJNGITHULI NALA alternatively known as WAH DAINTLEN. There is a legend associated with the WAH DAINTLEN and therefore it is very famous and widely known hence the name of the selected watershed has been attributed after the name of this stream as DAINTLEN WATERSHED.

3.2.1 Description of the Dainthlen Watershed, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya
The above watershed is a typical example of a severely eroded and degraded watershed near Cherrapunjee ( Plates 3.1 through 3.6). The awtershed is located from the 25 o 15/ to 25 o 22/30// North Latitude and 91 o 37/40// to 91 o 37/45// E longitudes. The elevation ranges from as high as 1690 m above mean sea level (msl) to 550 m msl. The topographical features are characterized with undulating terrain with steep to moderately sloppy hillocks interspersed with narrow gorges to deep nalas. The land is void of any prominent vegetation but in the streams where the soil moisture regime is favourable presence of dense vegetation is remarkable. The land surface is covered with small grass which often dries in the condition of moisture scarcity however becomes green and favourable for grazing in the monsoon season.

The Soil depth varies from few centimeters to few meters. However, due to erosion at many places the rocks have come up and near the streams it is possible to see the plates on the surface. The fine clay and silt particles when are disturbed by the action of any erosive agent including water find their place in the sea through the elaborate network of streams created due to heavy down power in monsoon. Only the boulders, pebbles and coarse gravel remain present in the beds of the stream.

Sandstone and Coal mining are the main industries thriving in the watershed but they have great adverse impact on the natural resources. Mining in the Megalaya state is a private affair under the supervision and guidance of PWD, Department of Industries and Mining, Govt. of Meghalaya due to typical land ownership pattern and land tenure system. The deposits of Limestone and coal being very shallow the opencast mining is widely prevalent in the watershed. Also, at some places the boulders are broken in to different sizes for exporting as building material to other areas. Different micro-watersheds are shown in Fig. 3.0. Different data layers have been digitized (Fig. 4, 5 & 6).


Fig. 3.0 Watershed delineation and delineated Micro-watersheds



Fig. 4.0 Digitised Data layers of Wah Dainthelen Watersheds, Cherrapunjee

3.3 Database Digitization
Different data layers were digitized and maps were prepared so as to be used in the analysis for planning various measures for soil and water conservation. These data layers were digitized with reference to the selected Wah Dainthelen watershed as well as for individual micro-watersheds numbering 35. Micro-watersheds were prioritized for developmental purposes based on several criteria. Runoff, soil loss, geomorphology etc. were common criteria used for micro watershed prioritization. One micro watershed from each priority class was selected for developing the watershed management plan. In this presentation Micro watershed No. 18 has been discussed at length.


Fig. 5 Prioritisation of micro watersheds



Fig 6. Different digitised layers in GIS for Micro watershed No. 18

3.4 Strategy for Restoration of Severely Degraded Cherrapunjee Watershed in North Eastern Himalayan Region
Before devising any solution to any problem it is very important that the problem should be well conceived and understood by those who wish to devise the solution. A thorough, complete and comprehensive knowledge of the factors responsible for the eruption of the problem, vital information, various causes, different mechanisms and agents responsible for creation, enhancement and enlargement of the problem domain as well its dimensions must be clearly understood, analysed and quantified. It is only then an appropriate strategy or strategies can be devised and if the solutions are well imposed; there are likelihood that success will no longer elude those who are sincere in their efforts and honest to the cause.

As regards the problem of resources degradation in Cherrapunjee region; let us first try to understand the nature of the problems of resources degradation from the perspective of North Eastern Hill Region, specific to Meghalaya and East Khasi Hills district and concentrate on the Cherrapunjee. The basic understanding of root cause, factors responsible for aggravating the resources depletion, mechanism and agents responsive for large scale denudation and degradation is a must when one has to deal with Tribes due to their peculiar nature and socio-economic-cultural practices and beliefs. Because, it is simply not possible for an outsider, with whatsoever good motives one tries to solve a problem, to get the work done if the locals don’t consider a problem as a problem. For example, it was revealed in one PRA Exercise by undertaken by me that the traditional BUN cultivation method which is scientifically proved as highly degenerative as for as resources are concerned, was not at all listed as a problem what to mention about being possible threat to the resources sustainability.

3.4.1 Degradation of Natural Resources In North Eastern Hills
Degraded lands can aptly be described as land whose conditions has deteriorated to such an extent that it can not be put to any productive use, except current fallow due to various constraints. In north eastern hills, the land affected by different derivative processes accounts for about 36.57 per cent of the total geographical area of the states. Although conservation measures are being adopted by the state governments yet not keeping pace with time due to agero-climatic conditions of the region. Land degradation occurs mainly due to human interference of the ecosystem. Degraded lands and stress sites can be categorised into the following:

3.4.2 Land degraded as a result of developmental activities Ecologically/Naturally degraded lands
Under first category come degraded forest lands; severely gulled and eroded lands and areas affected by shifting cultivation. The second category consists of mined lands; waterlogged areas and industrial wastelands. The land has mainly been degraded due to over exploitation of forest for fuel, timber and fodder, improper land use practices and infrastructure developments. Soil erosion is one of the major causes of soil degradation on steeply sloping lands devoid of vegetative cover. Steep terrain and intense storms accelerate the water erosion.

Soil degradation by erosion is often non-reversible, particularly where a top fertile soil is replaced by a compact acid sub-soil, through adverse changes in physical, chemical and biological properties. Using land for whatever, it is not capable of and unsuitable methods of soil and crop management generally increases the rate of soil degradation by different processes. Land slides adversely affect utility services such as roads, power generation, reservoirs, human settlements, trade, tourism and other developmental and economic activity parameters effecting on-site slope processes. This process not only affects the land/ soil but also cause loss of bio-diversity including base resource itself, and human life. The factors responsible for degradation of land resources in the hills are over exploitation of forest for fuel, timber and fodder, improper land use practices {cultivation on steep slopes), shifting cultivation, mining activities and construction of road.

3.4.3 Loss of forest cover: The deterioration in the productivity of the mountain environment has now been defined as a function of vegetative cover of uncultivated land. The tree ecosystem in association with large variety of other trees, smaller plants and animals from the forest ecosystem. Forests are inter -related with other river and stream ecosystem or neighbouring down or village ecosystems where from visitors like man or his domestic cattle intrude into the forest and remove the' forest produce like, timber, leaves, grass, firewood etc. Thus forest ecosystems are extremely valuable for the society in the lives of rural poor and tribal. Besides having economic, ecological and scientific values, forests have social, religious, cultural and ethnic importance also in our country. Forest ecosystems of hills are being threatened by a number of factors namely;
  1. loss of forest land to agriculture, industries, infrastructures and human settlements.
  2. loss of forestland due to multipurpose projects, construction of roads, transmission lines etc., quarrying, shifting cultivation and encroachments.
  3. Degradation causes by illicit felling, lopping for fodder and fuel wood, overgrazing, removal of forest floor litter, forest fires, over felling etc.
  4. Population explosion and encroachment of forest land.
The intended goal of forest policy to have two -thirds of the hills under forest cover for preventing erosion and land degradation to the stability of the fragile eco-system.

The deforestation, which includes the cutting of agricultural terraces on steeper and more marginal mountain slopes and shifting cultivation in north eastern hills, has led to a catastrophe in soil erosion and loss of productive land through accelerated laI1dslide incidence, and to disruption of the normal hydrological cycle. The deforestation on slopes, increased sediment load of rivers emanating from the hill and mountains is extending the Ganges and Brahmaputra delta and causing islands to form in the Bay of Bengal and local damage being proportionate to angle of slope. However, in most of the humid Himalayan area, harvesting should not be described as deforestation, unless it is labeled as temporary deforestation. If the affected area is left, and not burned, grazed, or cultivated, a rapid establishment of new reproduction will occur and a spurt in understory growth will ensure that little bare ground is exposed to high intensity rainfall.

3.4.4 Population Explosion And Demographic Pressures: The population density in mountain areas has moved from low to very high following the introduction of modern care. The decadal rate of population increase in NEH states was almost higher than the national average. In the last three decades (1961-1991 ) maximum growth was recorded in Nagaland (50%) and it happened to the tune of 78,7% during 1951: 1961in Tripura due to influx of people from East Pakistan (now Bangala Desh). The absolute population of 1991, converted densities into number of people per hectare of arable land; revealed that such real densities would greatly exceed those of the progressive plain lands (e.g. Punjab and Haryana). In those area double/triple cropping has become widespread, that is not practiced at higher elevations due to low temperature. The increased population in subsistence mountain society has led to:
  1. reduced amount of land per family,
  2. deepening poverty, and
  3. massive deforestation
Agricultural systems are no longer able to prove equitably for the population pressure on fragile mountain ecosystem. Earlier settlement pattern and people were close to their homesteads, but now there is increasing agglomeration. Semi- permanent cultivation is becoming permanent cultivation with increasing soil erosion and declining soil fertility. There has also been a reduction in the diversity of the crops. This general picture however is not applicable in Cherrapunjee region because though the population has increased yet the people are neither switching over to agriculture nor away from it as the whole land mass has become barren and people having realized that the productive potentials are unrealizable have shun the agricultural practices in the region long ago. Problems in the region are totally different and shall be discussed later in the chapter.

3.4.5 Cultivation On Steep Slopes: Generally in other parts of Meghalaya, continuous increase in population has further extended cultivation on steeper slopes with much less fertile soil. Soil erosion from agricultural activities on sloping lands has been by and large, the major contributor to the land degradation. In many cases, the loss of top soil from limited cultivated lands has forced many farmers to abandon their traditionally cultivated land and to move on to other marginal lands. During heavy monsoon available human energy is concentrated on repairing damage to the irrigated rice terraces and irrigation system and the rain fed terraces and other land have to be left to collapse, because rice is more vital to the survival of the subsistence family in north-eastern hills.

3.4.6 Shifting Cultivation: In the northeastern hill region of India in general and Meghalaya in particular, shifting cultivation is a common practice on hill slopes. This practice is known as 'Jhuml'. The productivity of lands under shifting cultivation are directly dependent on the rest or fallow periods, during which such lands rebuild their store of organic matter, essential nutrient for remunerative agricultural yields. Predominantly stored in forest ecosystem rather than the soil. In East khasi hills district, in which the Cherrapunjee is also situated the major form of cultivation has all along been a modification of Jhum Cultivation Called as BUN. In BUN method of cultivation the crops are raised in mixed sequence on alternate broad based raised beds and furrows. The Furrows are used as drainage channels while the crops are grown on specially prepared raised beds. This method of cultivation produced enormous amounts of soil losses following intense rain storms resulting into the are vecoming unfertile witin a short span of 2-3 years and are abandoned.

In Cherrapunjee area in the selected watersheds the abandoned BUN plots are visible scattered hither-thither. However, it is worth mentioning here that these plots are not in large numbers but form only a very small part of the area.

3.4.6 Road Construction: Before Chinese invasion, the Himalayas were, for most parts, accessible on foot along trails the only road led to famous hill stations , products of the British Raj. The shock of the Chinese military presence on the Himalayan frontier prompted a massive road construction in great haste for military purposes outweighing concern for careful planning and sound engineering. Tejwani ( 1987) estimated loss of soil to slope movement of 0. 9 t /m/year. After the road construction the extensive slope instability resulted in the production of enormous volume of debris usually dumped on road and further down slope during heavy monsoon storms in the form of rockfalls, rock slides and mudflow.

Thus road development causes destruction of downslide vegetation cover as well as the agricultural terraces of local subsistence farmers, who are usually not compensated for their loss. The development of road has also produced a major socio-economic impact on the Himalayas, which includes greater accessibility of hither to remote forests to commercial logging, ease of movement of people both from the mountains to cities of the neighboring plains and from the plains to the mountains.

3.4.7 Mining Activities: Open cost mining results loss of productive cover, soil loss and serious environmental degradation. Land after mining generally does not remain conductive to tree growth. The problem is much more vexed in the Himalayan highlands where the extensive surface excavation of sloping land not only damages the ecosystem within the periphery of mined area, but also sets a chain of ecological disturbances for beyond, down the watersheds. The recklessness of uncontrolled and irresponsible development of open coal mining and limestone quarrying is a most shattering impression to the Meghalaya.

3.5 Causes of Natural Resources Degradation specific to Cherrapunjee
The main causative factors for natural resources degradation can be characterized in to two groups.
  1. Natural Causes
  2. Socio-economic or man made causes
Water erosion, resulting from extended durations of one of the most intense rainfall concentrated in the large parts of the year is the major cause of the degradation of resources in Cherrapunjee region. The mechanism of cloud formation and high precipitation in the Cherrapunjee region has already been reported in one of the Six monthly reports. High Rainfall amount however, is not the only one. complete and exhaustive cause for natural resources degradation in Cherrapunjee. From the historical evidences available from the area having similar agro climatologic settings the Cherrapunjee region can geographically be termed as the region of Subtropical Rainforest like few in South America and Amzon basin. The area receiving such high amounts of rainfall and high intensity of sunlight are naturally formed as one. In the other parts of Meghalaya such as Jaintia Hill region etc. where some undisturbed dense forests do exist even today corroborate this fact. It is ironical however, that the forest depletion has started early and even the oldest man in Cherrapunjee recalls that the region was in the same shape as it is now about 70-75 years from now. Historical evidences are that the wanton destruction of the Cherrapunjee started early in 17th Century with the British efforts of lying the transport network in one of the highly inaccessible areas. The large, gigantic trees might have been destroyed in early period and with them might have vanished the wild life; if the same ever exited. Due to the Non Vegetarian nature of the populace, the lower order animals are still being hunted wherever encountered. Burning of forest biomass for clearing the land is another practice widely prevalent in the region for shifting cultivation which often goes out of hand as the wind velocities in the December and January are high, while the vegetation gets dried up resulting in to uncontrolled forest fires due to which the valley soils appear to be black. While on my tour to Cherra area in past as well as during 12th-21st September, 2004 I had an opportunity to interact a large number of people old and young alike and I was told by all of them that the area had worn the similar look ever since. This means that the regeneration has not been taking place in the area in past that’s why the area is in complete state of degradation. While traversing the Wah Dainthelen watershed sparse population of mix stand of forest have been encountered in many places while the cover of moss grass, some other types of grasses and many different species although stunted growth were encountered. The question arises in an inquisitive mind as to how and why there is such large tract void of any vegetation when the rainfall duration and amounts are sufficiently high and there is no dearth of moisture the soils in narrow valleys must have supported bushy growth as is found in isolated patches spreads all over the Wah Dainthelen Watershed. The poor soil fertility and many other factors have been associated by the scientists and reported which are to be believed in larger perspective but the real cause is not the same. There are several other causes to be analysed and understood.

For understanding this mechanism of soil erosion, land degradation and landscape remaining void of any vegetation one has to very closely examine several other factors which are unexplained as on yet The socio-cultural-ethnic and economical point of view will clearly explain the complete cycle of degradation which is complementary to the

3.5.1 Factors Responsible for Near Complete Degradation of Cherrapunjee Region: While the rainfall is the major factor responsible for one of the most severe natural resources degradation the role of human beings cant be overlooked. A few reasons for the sorry state of affairs of the Cherrapunjee are discussed below:

3.5.2 Colder Climate (Temperature and Humidity): In large part of the year the temperature of Cherrapunjee remain low. The fogy weather, high humidity and associated wetness provides suitable environment for people to remain inside during such conditions limiting the number of hours of productive work. Due to the terrain conditions it is not advisable for safety reasons that any chance be taken at the cost of health and well being.

3.5.3 Restricted Numbers of Bright Sunshine Hours: The Cherrapunjee area remains covered with clouds and fogy for most of the time in a day limiting the number of effective working hours.

3.5.4 Dense Fog: It becomes very difficult to see beyond a few feet when dense fog surrounds the territory. With the presence of the moisture in the fog often one finds difficulty in breathing. This also provides a favourable environment for diseases and pests to grow and multiply for creating troubles to the flora and fauna alike.

3.5.5 Treacherous and inaccessible terrains: Highly undulating topography and presence of deep gorges and embedded stones in the surrounding hills restrict the movement in the area. Construction of road networks to remove the inaccessibility becomes a very costly affair and that is the reason on the periphery of Wah Dainthelen watershed only a Kachha Raod exist on which the Retired Trucks of Military, Jeeps and pedestrian movement are possible. That too one has to be very careful making the criss-crossing of the watersheds a time consuming and tedious task undesirable for any meaningful economic activity involving natural resources.

Unscientific and unabated Mining and Querying: Having exhausted the dense forest, secondary forests and production potential of the land mass the people of Cherrapunjee have restored to mining of Coal, Limestone, Sand Stone and Sand Gravel. This practice has taken the shape of a cottage industry in the region and is promoted by the state department of mines and minerals.

3.5.6 Mining of Coal: The mining is done on private lands and the product is left in the open. With the direct exposures to rainfall the washing of caol finds its way to other low lands and water bodies spoiling their quality. Reports are consistently coming from such areas regarding the deteriorated quality of land and water but no systematic scientific studies have so far been reported.

3.5.7 Mining of Limestone: Lime is the essential ingradient to be chewed with the cured areca nut and betel by one and all alike in the state of Meghalya. Since lime stone is available in the Cherrapunjee region the same is being mined. The raw limestone required firing and quenching before the same could become an economic commodity. The forests are put under pressure for providing the firing material for the mining activity in Lime Stone Industry. The associated hazards of resources degradation due to felling of the bushes and trees for getting the firewood for this activity follows.

3.5.8 Sand Stone Mining and Cement Industry: Sand stone is available in abundance in the area. The boulders are broken in different sizes and supplied to various parts of the state, country and even exported to Bangaladesh as construction material. Since the raw material is available free of cost the only cost involvements are breaking, loading/unloading and transporting. A cement factory has also been established in the Cherrapunjee area which also consumes coal and firewood ( to be quantified) for its functioning.

3.5.9 Sand Gravel Mining: Usually the coarse gravel (Murrang) and fine sands ( Baloo/Ret/Sand) are found in the river beds. Whereas, in some riverbeds in Cherrapunjee the same is available but in smaller quantities. The people of the area have invented a noble method of mining the sand gravel and fine sand. While mining for large boulders the debris are washed using the waters from the spring from upper reaches brought to the site of mine through the elaborate network of plastic garden pipes. In the process all the fine particles, siltand clay are washed and allowed to find their way through stream to the down stream the coarse and fine gravels are retained. The same is sold on the roadside makeshift shops for petty sums without even realizing the possible future impacts of such activities by the locals on the resources and future scenarios arising due to washing off of the fine productive topsoil.

3.5.10 Deforestation of Minor Growths:
No restriction is imposed by the community on the collection of fuel wood either for self consumption or for commercialisation from the areas other than demarcated as Village Forests. Cutting of bushy nature of plants and small trees is very common for following purposes:
  1. Fuel wood
    For self consumption
    • Space heating
    • Drying Cloths
    • For Cooking
    For Commercial purposes
    • Space heating
    • Drying Cloths
    • For Cooking
  2. For Road Construction
  3. For burning the limestone
  4. For igniting the coal
  5. Uncontrolled grazing
  6. Low population density and carelessness for the safety of resources
  7. Lack of awareness among the villagers regarding Natural Resources Degradation
  8. Bare minimum needs and requirements of the people/Contended nes
  9. Land Ownership pattern
  10. Matriarchal System of Khasi Tribe
3.5.11 Burning of the forest floor:
In the dry season when the vegetations becomes dry and crisp, the forest floor is burnt as a habit, or as an amusement, as fun; an act intensely done by the youth despite bans in places, or it just gets ignited by throwing a burning cigarette butt. Forest department also promote the view that burning of forest floor gives way to the other vegetation to grow in the rainy season especially in the areas where the pine needles are in abundance. When the forest floor burns it also affects the bushes as well as the large trees the traces of that can often be found in form of burnt barks of the large trees. Sometimes the intense heat that is generate results into complete mortality of even large trees. The growth remains stunted for other species for quite sometime after burning of the forest floor.

3.6 Natural Resources Degradation Vis-À-Vis Energy Requirements
The energy requirement for various purposes is the main reason for depleted forests in wah Dainthelen, Cherrapunjee. Due to the cold and highly humid climate in large parts of the year the requirement of space heating, drying clothes and keeping the food material warm. Huge chunk of wooden material are required for the swelled population. The usual method of drying cloth in Meghalaya is by the use of charcoal which is prepared by anaerobic burning of wooden logs and quenching half burnt material and not the hydro-electricty which is surplus in Meghalaya. These area have traditionally been store houses of these material. Even the regular coal is not preferred by the populace in place of Charcoal whose requirement can be estimated.

3.7 Some Sociological Reasons Responsible For Natural Resource Degradation
In order to understand the carelessness towards the safety and security of the resources one has to understand the Khasi System of Tribal Living in its larger perspective.

3.7.1 Matriarchal System:
The Khasi system is a matriarchal system where the property rights are transferred to the youngest daughter in the family, who in turn is responsible for maintaining the family traditions and take care of parents and unmarried broters. Though the system is in vogue since long and is upheld in very high esteem, yet the able bodied male folks, who are responsible for undertaking heavy operations often get distracted after marriage from undertaking constructive activities mainly due to prevalence of broken marriages and a sense of non-belongingness to any thing always prevails in them as nothing can be attributed to them. Resultantly the youth who may be fairly well educated sometimes become unemployed and homeless after any such mishappening. The stressful period though may last for a short while till one find some one else to marry yet the same has got lasting impact. The living style of Khasis which permits to a fair degree of alcoholism in the modern society, sometimes results in to mislead youth who may in turn fall in to traps of serious alcoholism, drug addiction and unlawful activities if proper care are not taken well before the time.

3.7.2 Land Ownership Patterns
Lands are owned by the community, the government and private people through a “patta” issued by the Village Dorbar or Siyemship. Many a times the owners are too rich to stay in the villages who in turn sublet the lands to the poor laborers in lieu to a levy. The last man in the hierarchy is least interested and bothered to adopt any land and water conservation measure by spending any thing as he is not sure about the period he shall be asked to vacate the land. Therefore, their ultimate goal is to earn as much as possible from the piece of land in a given time.

3.7.3 Problems Of Insurgency And Terrorism:
The problem of insurgency and terrorism is not new to the North Eastern Region. The isolated areas like wah dainthelen watersheds near Cherrapunjee due to their proximity to Bangladesh are no exception. While the road leading to Shillong is frequented by vehicles and people the other kachha roads covering the major portion of the watersheds are seldom visited by any government official for security reasons. Also, due to security reasons, many villagers do not like to visit the deep jungles leaving the terrain to the hands of such elements, if any. Many a times, the military resort to clearing the dense jungles and burn the minor growth.

3.8 Arresting the Processes of Resources Degradation
Understanding the processes, factors and causes of land degradation is a basic prerequisite towards successful restoration of the productivity of degraded lands. Knowing the category of soil degradation is an important stage to restore the soil quality and its productivity by preventing soil erosion, promoting high biological activity, increasing soil organic matter content and increasing rooting depth of plants. A general strategy is devised below:

3.8.1 The General Strategy For Restoration
The treatment efforts should be initiated in Phase wise manner. It is not possible to revert the whole problem in a short span but in SLOW and STEADY phase wise fashion.
  1. Result demonstrations are better than method demonstration. Following the above rule a pilot project has to be started. It has to be proved that it is possible to make an area more productive and remunerative than the existing economic exploitation by the way of mining etc. using the resources conservation and utilization of land for productive purposes. This will motivate the people of the area to switch over to other ventures from their existing practices.
  2. Adoption of intensive soil conservation measures will be required. Mainly the engineering measures have to be adopted first to check the excessive runoff. The retaining of the runoff in the catchments will result in increased supply of water for more longer periods. Also these water retention structures will also act as soil harvesting structures and will not allow the runoff to immediately carry away the soil from the watersheds. Implementation of a pilot project or scheme as a result demonstration in the beginning.
  3. Secondly, the emphasis has to be given to stop the following few things:
    1. Intensive grazing
    2. Burning the forest floors
    3. Coal and other types of mining
    4. Cutting the minor vegetation
    5. Erosion of economically important forest flora such as Rhododendrons and Orchids.
  4. Motivation of the villagers to wean away from some of their established practices in order to save their remaining natural resources for their future generations. Economic sacrifices will be required whereas alternate modes of employment and economic activities have to be created for the people.
  5. Heavy financial grants/funding for treatment of the landscape which at present does not support any growth. The chemical and physical treatment of all such areas where the soil depth is shallow to moderate.
  6. Creation of alternate employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth.
  7. Engineering measures should follow the vegetative or agronomic measures.
  8. Different commercial ventures, more remunerative and less degrading in nature should be thought of and employees to wein away the beneficiaries from the existing degrading ventures.
  9. Promotion of Social forestry, horticulture and otheragrbased ventures.
While deciding the crops and other agricultural commodities new and highly remunerative commodities should get priority.

3.9 The Approaches and Measures Adopted for Resources Conservation
There are two approaches that have been used to reclaim degraded lands.
  1. Engineering approaches
  2. Ecological approaches
3.9.1 Engineering Approaches
Structural approaches are used in cases of extreme degradation, where other approaches are not possible or slow. Contour ridges, check dams and bench terraces involve high cost of construction and maintenance, which poor farmers can not afford to invest. Ecological measures are more effective when used in combination with engineering techniques. By adopting terracing and protected waterways, the steep slope should be cultivated safely and profitably. Slope stabilization includes re-vegetation and other engineering measures to control surface erosion on road cut and fill slope and waste and borrow areas. During construction of road, to avoid mass movement of soil, the best way is to place the culverts to the natural stream channel as closely as possible. Wattling and staking is a combination of mechanical stabilization and re-vegetation on road fill banks and similar areas of base slopes for building new roads in the hilly terrain. It helps to reduce the run-off and its velocity, barrier or buffer strip for controlling soil and conservation of moisture for stake growth ( Fig. 7).


Fig. 7 Suggested engineering measures for soil and water conservation in the watershed

3.9.2 Ecological Approaches
Farmers, foresters and pastoralists are the users of land resources for production and sustained output of plant materials' year after year depends on maintaining the quality and quantity of the system. The ecological approaches to restore land degradation includes following objectives:
  1. to stabilize slopes and control of sedimentation in the stream,
  2. to establish dense and diverse vegetative cover to provide ecological stability to the site and act as soil amendments,
  3. to ensure nutrient cycling and enrichment of soil,
  4. to fulfill fuel, fodder and other requirements ot local people, and v) to enhance the ameliorative value of the site.
The main ecological approaches are described in brief for the sustainability of land.

3.10 Landscape Stabilization:
Before restoration of degraded lands, the stabilization of landscape against erosion or slope failure is essential. It can be done through the grading of slopes before surface treatment and re-vegetation or cut-off-ditches with a variety of terraces. With an effective vegetation cover, gradients may be controlled by the establishment of plants without supplemental mechanical measures in protecting the landscape against water erosion. Catastrophic events (such as land slides) can not be altogether prevented, but management action can be implemented to reduce the frequency of events by preventing human occupation, economic development therein and planting of deep rooted trees and/ or shrubs on steep slopes.

3.11 Restoration of Mined Areas: Land after mining generally does not remain conductive to tree growth. The ecological rehabilitation can be attempted by using plant species of economic value to local population and also compatible to the degraded sites. The selected plant species must have the following characteristics (Anonymous 1993).
  1. species capable of colonizing degraded sites,
  2. species capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen as well as conserve the soil,
  3. species capable of producing fuel, fodder, fiber for local population, and
  4. species which are of aesthetic value.
3.12 Maintenance of Soil Fertility for Crop Productivity: The most serious effect of soil erosion leads to loss of most fertile topsoil and exposure of infertile acid subsoil, decrease of plant available water capacity, degradation of soil structure, non-uniform removal of soil surface and ultimately decrease of economic return on production. Soil conservation not only includes control of erosion, but also recognizes equally the importance of soil fertility maintenance. The management practices include the maintenance of soil fertility, soil quality and productivity. Soil fertility remains at an optimum level if regular doses of manure and fertilizers are added to it and soil pH adjusted to 5.5 to eliminate the aluminum toxicity. The optimization of the plant nutrient management for the productivity of agricultural systems should be conceived according to the system mobilizing natural resources in order to sustainable increase in the output. Plant nutrients in crop residues, litter from forests cattle manure and domestic- waste composts comprise the working capital of plant nutrients because farmers can transfer and allocate those nutrient sources to a particular crop in a crop rotation and to a particular plot. The legumes in farming systems are essential to ensure and sustain agriculture with a moderate level of agricultural output. The integrated plant nutrient system (IPNS) promotes to increase the efficiency of applied chemical fertilizers by adopting the best time, method and source of application and utilizing sources other than chemical fertilizers such as organic manure, bio-fertilizers etc. to meet part of the nutrient needs of crops and cropping system. IPNS is a step in the direction of sustainable agricultural development through necessary modification of the conventional technology to improve soil health. Efforts are needed for its adaptability at farmers level, because in most of the cases farmers have the availability of organic manure.

3.13 Afforestation and Agroforestry: Forests provide more protection against erosion and loss by hydrological functions due to closed system as long as they are maintained as forest lands. Even after cutting, re-growth of vegetation quickly restores any hydrological or erosion impacts to pre-harvest level, at least in the more humid zone. Open/degraded forestland + forest blank + scrubs in reserve forest and alpine scrub can be restored with an integrated approach through afforestation to change the unpleasant look into pleasant view of the site. Restoration or afforestation makes the unproductive lands productive by minimizing erosion and rebuilding of nutrient budget. In the initial stage severely eroded lands, require complete forest cover of local origin coupled with protection from grazing. The local perennial tall tufted grass species Amliso (Thysanolaena agrostis) can reclaim and protect the degraded land, terrace risers, water ways, land between trees, and vulnerable points, provides fodder to animals in winter arid spikes for brooms.

Appropriate agro-forestry systems have the potential to check ~oil erosion, maintain soil organic matters and physical characteristics, augment nitrogen buildup through nitrogen fixing trees and promote efficient nutrient cycling. where trees are integrated extensively with crop and livestock production. Large cardamom with shade trees on hill slopes unsuitable for crop production, an integral part of the farming system in Sikkim is ecologically sustainable. The combination of trees, grasses, herbs and shrubs along with large cardamom plantation arrest the flow of water, reduce the risk of soil erosion and water pollution hazards. Bamboo thickets along the drainage channels on steep slope, grasses on terrace risers and on marginal land stabilize the soil against degradation and gives production from land occupied. The multistory homestead gardening possesses the inherent capacity to arrest land denudation. The positive interaction among components (trees/shrubs and crops/animals) to obtain a more diversified and/ or more sustainable production from the available resources and physical environments that is possible under socio-economic conditions. The variation of climate due to altitude further provide ample scope for growing a variety of agricultural crops, multipurpose tree species and fruits of tropical to temperate climates for the effective utilization of land under agro-forestry for its sustainability.

3.14 Proper Land use Planning: The land use planning is the systematic assessment of physical, social and economic factors in such a way as to encourage and assist land users in selecting options that increase their productivity with sustainability and meet the needs of society. Suitable planning of land use with reference to the nature of land and needs of the community would provide maximum returns of optimum land resources. The planning of area development can be best tackled on a natural drainage unit called 'watersheds' with a view to develop resources in such a manner so as to get maximum benefits to the people by maintaining ecological balance through continued long-term efforts and commitments for example maintenance of infra-structure, protection and judicious use of land, water and forest resources to meet the continued demands, etc. The accepted land capability classification (Annexure) should be followed while planning the land use. In order to implement the land use planning at catchment for the hilly terrain should be based on following objectives:
  1. Optimization of production from agriculture, forests, plantation (large cardamom), mixed farming systems and others on a sustained yield basis for self-sufficiency in basic needs.
  2. Control of land degradation to their primary production potential.
  3. Development of wasteland for profitable biomass production.
  4. Exploitation of important mineral resources with proper planning for rehabilitation of mined areas.
  5. Efficient utilization of perennial water resources by reducing run-off and sedimentation. 6. Provide the security for food, fodder, fibre, fuel, timber etc.
  6. Protection of scenic beauty, natural vegetation, wildlife and birds of montane region for appreciation to next generation. The modification of indigenous knowledge based on latest technical know-how by inter-generations wisdom of local inhabitants of the region through native means to suit their conditions. The preservation of natural ecosystems, scenic areas and wildlife habitat represents another dimension of many watershed projects. The preservation of some ecosystems, particularly those with threatened species, could be in the interest of ecology and society as a whole. In such instances, the importance of an ecosystem may not readily be evaluated on the basis of economics, but the expected benefits should be explicitly described in the appraisal. High quality water is usually associated with forested watershed that are well managed, having sparse human populations, few grazing animals and least soil erosion. According to established practice, climate, soil, landform, hydrology etc. of an area, the human intervention should be restricted to the choice of a crop, a livestock or a forest type. For the watershed in study the proposed land use plan as suggested has been shown in fig. 8.


Fig. 8 Suggested landuse of Micro watershed 18 in Wah Dainthelen, Cherrapunjee

4.0 Recommended Holistic Approach for Natural Resources Management
Environmental protection, according to the consumption perspective, requires the calculation of maximum sustainable yield from renewable resources and long-term conservation strategies for the management of nonrenewable resources. As opined by Repetto, 1990) "a country could sell off its timber and minerals, erode its soils, pollute its aquifers, deplete its fisheries, and the national accounts should treat all the proceeds as current income, mistaking a decline in health for a rise in income is confusion likely to end in bankruptcy."

The three basic relationships of (1) quality of human life (health, freedom, dignity, access to resources, fulfillment of potential), civic engagement (sense of place, participation in governance, social learning, social quality), and quality of biosphere (biological diversity, human carrying capacity, life support functions, renewable resource base) are operating in a balanced and mutually enhancing fashion for sustainable communities development. Holistic management of ecological systems acknowledges man, and habitats of humanity, as being integral component of ecological systems. Ecosystem management provides a framework for assimilating human-social values into management policies and strategies traditionally dominated by economic values and to a lesser extent by environments values. "To achieve sustainability we must have a resource management policies and implementation strategies which promote economic, environmental and social equitability across generations. Holistic ecosystem management meets these criteria. The goal depends on creative and innovative conservation, restoration and production practices that provide farmers with economically viable and environmentally sound alternatives or options in their farming systems. It poses major research questions for both natural social scientists and a multi-disciplinary framework for sustainable land management has yet to be agreed. Some approaches for the holistic ecosystem management of the region is:

4.1 Transformation of Shifting Cultivated area: The intelligent application of modern low cost and low energy techniques could be expected to increase the yield crops under shifting cultivation without effecting the viability of the system. Improved fallow with woody and herbaceous legumes with primary purpose of fixing N as a part of crop-short fallow (2-3 years) to increase the accumulation of large quantities of N and to provide a residual effect to two or three subsequent crops. The introduction of plantation and horticultural crops like rubber, coffee, tea, banana, citrus, black paper, cashew, spice trees, pineapple etc. on jhum fields on sloppy hill~ are the promising alternatives, provided free food for some time to cultivators to gain confidence. The locals without breaking their traditions can achieve this through a reasonable share of profits after processing and marketing.

4.2 Horticulture: The wide agro-climatic variation from sub-tropical to alpine provides scope for growing a large number of fruits like mandarin (orange), guava, mango, banana, avocado, peach, plum, pear, apple etc., all kinds of vegetables and flowers like orchids, gladiolus, ornamental and house plants. The land which are not suitable for seasonal crops and lying barren and unproductive could be covered with orchards to generate additional income for farmers without causing resource degradation. Orchids are well distributed from sub-tropical to sub-alpine zone and can be exploited commercially along with other flowers to raise income of the people. Large cardamom plantation is economically viable and ecologically sustainable agro-forestry system despite low average yields (around 200kg dry capsule/ha) on steeply sloppy lands. This system is a major source of cash to supplement subsistence farming and has considerable unrealized.

4.3 Livestock-based Farming and Stall- Feeding: The production of dairy cattle on small land holdings in the rural area in conjunction with primary agriculture production creates employment and contributes substantially to domestic income and obtaining better utilization of farm resources. Plenty of grasses are available during the monsoon periods and scarcity only occurs in winter (November to March). Cultivation of fodder crops on agricultural lands is impractical due to constraints of land availability and other inputs. Here numbers of natural feed resources (tree leaves, grasses, shrubs and vines) are available. The leaf of some fodder trees is almost as nutritious as that of leguminous fodder crops and offers an added advantage of producing fuel wood as a by-product. Leguminous fodder trees (Albizia sp; Alnus napaulensis, and others) enrich the site through nitrogen fixation, which helps in effective soil and water conservation.

Under the present system of unrestricted grazing of animals during the some part of the year on village common land or on government land at no cost to the farmers and result regression of the natural cover to sparse inferior grasses and unpalatable weeds. The alternative is not to graze animal at all, but to cut the grasses and stall-feed animals. The advantages of cutting and carrying are that:
  • it is easier to organize the rotational grazing;
  • young tree seedlings are not destroyed;
  • cattle track, which erode in the rain, are not created;
  • all dung goes to cultivated land;
  • livestock parasite loads are less;
  • damage to standing crops and terrace risers is reduced. In the interest of effective feeding of livestock, the use of trees, which provide green leaf fodder during the dry season, should be part of the rehabilitation programme. The tree fodder will also serve the purpose of timber and fuel wood.
5.0 Summary and Conclusions
GIS tool came very handy as for as their use for developing watershed management plan for severely degraded Cherrapunjee watersheds. It is however important to note that merely use of the tools and techniques is not important in case of natural resources management planning for any area. There are several other factors which must be taken care of. Many factors cant be characterised physically and quantitative estimation too are very difficult. For example socio-economic-ethnic etc. Nevertheless, this technique provided a sound basis for arriving at a plan for arresting the process of degradation in such a high rainfall area facing severe natural resources degradation. The need of the hour is to convert theoretical plans into reality by constructing the suggested structures and adopting the strategy for development in Toto. Location specific corrections are always possible and planners shall be ready to accommodate them with suitable modifications as and when required.

Acknowledgements
I am indebted to : The National Academy of Agricultural Sciencesn (NAAS), New Delhi for the award of the above project work, Sir Dorabjee TATA Foundation, Mumbai for making available the required finance, Director, ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Umaim, Meghalaya for his kind consent to allow to undertake the above project and Principal Scientist and Head Division of Agricultural Engineering for sparing me to do the above project.The Director, Joint Director (H.Q.) and Head, Division of Agricultural Engineering for supervising the works of the project as members of the Advisory Board and guiding/correcting me time to time. All the authorities of Sub Divisional Office, Cherrapunjee, B. D. O., Sohra- Bholaganj Block, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Govt. of Meghalaya, Directorate of Land Use Survey and Planning, Govt. of Meghalaya, Directorate of Agriculture, Govt. of Meghalaya, and the Directorate of Soil Conservation, Govt. of Meghalaya, Dr. Surendra Singh, Dean College of Basic Sciences and Humanities and Head, Geography Department, North Eastern Hill University and Geological Survey of India, Shillong Office, National Remote Sensing Agency, Balanagar, Hyderabad, V. M. Chowdhury, RRSSC, IIT, Khragpur and NE-SAC, Nogsder, Umiam and IIRS, Dehradun in connection with getting the help in analysis of remote sensing data, Image Classification and Image interpretation.

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