Nokrek

©Wikimedia Commons/ BMC Ecology
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, India

The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is located in the northeast of India on the Tura Range, which forms part of the Meghalaya Plateau (average altitude: 600 metres). The entire area is mountainous and Nokrek is the highest peak of the Garo hills, rising up 1,412 metres. The north of the reserve embraces rather gently undulating hills, while steep slopes characterize the south. The biosphere reserve contains major rivers and streams that form a perennial catchment system. Examples include the Ganol, Dareng and Simsang rivers, of which the latter is the longest and largest. The Simsang originates in the north of the Biosphere Reserve, the Dareng from the southern peaks, and the Ganol flows westward into the Brahamputra River, which supplies water to numerous towns.

Designation Date: 2009
Administrative Authorities: Chief Conservator of Forest, Director of Biosphere Reserve.
Surface area (terrestrial): 82,000 ha
Core area(s): 4,748 ha
Buffer area(s): 22,792 ha
Transition area(s): 54,460 ha

Location
Latitude: 25°20'N – 25°29”N
Longitude: 90°13'E – 90°35”E
Centre Point: 25°24’29.99’’N – 90°24’2.04’’E

Ecological Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/ Lalithamba
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, India

The tropical climate is characterized by high humidity, monsoon rains (April–October) and high temperatures, which presents ideal circumstances for the growth of rich vegetation, and consequently for the development of a unique and varied biodiversity. Evergreen and semi-evergreen deciduous forests dominate the landscape: 90% of the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is covered by evergreen forest. Some patches of bamboo forest can also be found in the lower altitudes, and a remarkable variety of endemic Citrus spp. can also be found in the reserve, especially Citrus indica (Indian wild orange).

Representative species of the reserve include Bombax ceiba (Cotton tree), Sterculia villosa (Hairy Sterculia) and Cassia fistula (Golden shower tree). Highly vulnerable and threatened fauna species in Nokrek include the Slow Loris, Petaurista philippensis (Giant flying squirrel) and Macaca leonina (Pig-tailed macaque). In addition, the reserve is home to other unique and endangered animals, such as tigers, leopards, elephants and Hoolock gibbons; the latter are the most endangered apes in India and therefore receive special protection.

Socio-Economic Characteristics

© Wikimedia Commons/ Diganta Talukdar
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, India

At present, 22,084 people reside permanently in the area. The local economy suffers due to a lack of innovative working material. Shifting cultivation is the principal and most important economic activity and this form of agriculture is practised on 17% of Nokrek’s area by 85% of the population. Local people rely on natural forest products such as timber, honey and wax, while bananas, rice, cashew nuts and tea are the main commercial exports.

Local authorities are attempting to bring an end to shifting cultivation in order to protect the ecosystems of the biosphere reserve. Honeybee boxes have been distributed throughout the reserve and metallic skeletons are used for the cultivation of squash. Plantations of horticultural species have been built and freshwater ponds are being constructed.

Archaeological findings prove that humans settled in the area during the lower Palaeolithic period of the middle Pleistocene Age. Agriculture and hunting were practised until the Neolithic period, when they were replaced by more efficient slash-and burn techniques and shifting cultivation. During the Mughal Empire, agricultural products such as timber and wax were traded for materials used in daily work. Following the arrival and rule of the East India Company, the site attracted attention for the extraction of minerals, in particular coal.

Today, Garo tribes dominate the area. However, other tribes, such as the Banias or Hajjons, also exist in the area. The Garo refer to themselves as Achik mande (man of hills). While practising Christians, they believe in reincarnation and pray to several gods. The most worshipped deity is Saljong to whom the Garo offer sacrifices, such as chicken and monkeys, in return for protection of their cultivated farms.


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