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NeBIO (2010) Vol.

1(3) Sarma 8 - 13

Land ownership, administration and status of forests of Khasi Hills

Autonomous District Council of Meghalaya
Kiranmay Sarma
University School of Environment Management, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
Dwarka 16C, New Delhi – 110 075, India

Author for correspondence:

© NECEER, Imphal


Classification of land ownership in Khasi Hills districts is unique and complicated. There are
four major ownerships of land existed in these districts viz., private land, group or clan land,
community land and government land. Out of the total forest areas of the state only 7.6
percent i.e., 725 Sq Km is under the control of State Forest Department. The remaining area
is controlled and managed by the district council. The district council has three different
types of forest viz., old un-classed state forest, clan or community forest and private forest.
These forests are again divided into subgroups. Sacred groves are the inseparable part of
the tribal people and it occupies approximately 1000 Sq Km area in varying sizes. The
traditional institutions of the Khasi hills like the Syiems, Myntris, Lyngdohs, Sirdars,
Wahadars and village headmen constitute the Khasi political institutions. These institutions
continue to exercise their influence over the various activities. To know the status of forests
controlled by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and the State Forest Department,
a remote sensing based study was carried out. It was found that 63.5 percent of three Khasi
hills districts are covered either by dense or open forests. Rest of the areas are occupied by
settled agricultural land (8.5%), current shifting cultivation (0.7%) area, and non-forest
(27.3%), represented by abandoned shifting cultivation area, grass land, degraded land,
settlement area, road, mining areas, water bodies, rivers and sand bars. It is estimated that
the forest under the control of State Forest Department is more than 97 percent which are
confined in five reserve forests and three protected forests located in the districts of East
Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi.

Keywords: Ri Kynti, Law-lyngdoh, Law-adong, clan forest, unclassed forest, raid forest,
forest status

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council of Land Ownership patterns of Khasi
Meghalaya consists of three districts viz., East Khasi In the Khasi system there are many laws related to
Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi (Fig. 1). The land and its ownership. Therefore, the classification
districts are bordered in the north by Assam state, of land ownership is extremely complicated (Haloi,
east by Jaintia Hills district of the state, south by 1984). The following four types of land ownerships
Bangladesh and west by East Garo Hills and South have been identified in the Khasi Hills:
Garo Hills districts of the state. Being the part of
Meghalaya plateau, the districts are highly dissected (i) Private land: The land over which the single
and have irregular terrain in the western and the owner or individual family enjoys all the rights at
northern side. A continuous escarpment with a steep will and is not subjected to the control of any
slope marks the southern side. superior authority, is defined as private land. Bareh

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