DISTRIBUTION  PATTERN  OF  POPULATION  IN  MANIPUR: A  GEOGRAPHICAL  ANALYSIS

Dr. AK. Sunder Kumar Singh
Reader, Dept. Of Geography
Churachandpur College, Manipur
Published in : Journal of the Geographical Society of Manipur
Vol. 1, No. 1, Jul-Dec. 1997, pp.15-30.



CONTENTS
 
 1. INTRODUCTION  6. DISTRIBUTION OF MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS
 2. THE STUDY AREA  7. POPULATION LAND RATIO
 3. PEOPLING OF THE REGION  8. CONCLUSION
 4. PATTERN OF POPULATION DISTRIBUTION  9. WEB EDITOR'S COMMENT
 5. DISTRIBUTION OF RURAL AND URBAN POPULATION

1. INTRODUCTION:

The study of population growth and distribution is basic to an understanding of the spatial pattern of population. They furnish a base for analyzing other attributes of population of an area. Any change in the size of the population is termed as growth of population. A numerical increase or decrease in the population may bring about changes in the man land ratio, in the value of land and in the social order. Manipur is facing an enormously positive growth of population from 2,84,465 in 1901 to 18,37,149 persons in 1991. During the last nine decades the population of the state has increased more than five times. Out of the total increase of 15,52,684 persons, more than two third has been added during the last three decades, and at present the increase is taking place at a rate of 41,620 persons every year. If the present trend continues, the growth rate would become much higher than even the present rate. On the other hand, the distribution of population is very uneven. The hilly region, comprising about 90 percent of the total area of the State, contains only 35.45 percent of the State's total population, while the valley region with only 10 percent of the total area has to support 64.55 percent of the total population. Further, the density of population in the Manipur valley in the Imphal area is increasing at a faster rate during the last three decades (1961-71 had 401 persons/km square and increased to 490 in 1971-81 and to 530 in 1981-1991, respectively). Thus, the pressure of population on the limited areas of the valley region is becoming high year after year. The valley region with majority of the urban centers of the State is being the focal point of population concentration.

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2. THE STUDY AREA:

Manipur, the area under study, forms an important part of the northeastern region of India. With a rough rectangular shape, the State covers an area of 22,327 square km between Latitudes 23032 N and 25041N and Longitude 9302 E and 94047E. The state is mainly linked with the rest of the country through the Imphal-Dimapur Road (National Highway No.39) and the Imphal-Jiribam Road (National Highway No. 53). Thus, Manipur is a landlocked state. From the topographical point of view, the state has three physical units, viz., the Manipur Valley, the Manipur Hills, and the Jiribam Basin, each having its own geographical personality.  The entire population is distributed in these three physical settings comprising 8 districts - 5 in the hill areas and 3 in the valley region.

3. PEOPLING OF THE REGION:

In the ancient days, Manipur was known to the neighboring countries by different names. In Runnel's "Memoir and Maps in India" the state was called "Meckley" (A.F.M. Abdul Ali: Manipur Through Ages, 1985) and in Symes "Narrative and Maps" of that time it was called "Cassay". Literary evidences show that the first settlement of Mekhli or Kathe (people of Meckley) took place on the hills and then the human settlement in the valley areas dates back to about 2000 years. In short, the present population structure of Manipur is the result of intermingling of four major categories of people: (1). People living in the Manipur Valley before AD 33; (2). People colonizing the central part of modern Imphal West in A.D. 33; (3). Immigrants from Upper Burma (Upper Myanmar); and (4). immigrants from other parts of India and Bangladesh. Manipur in a broad sense has been the meeting ground of two races and civilizations, viz, those of India and Burma (Myanmar), because of its geographical location on the principal migration routes between the two countries.
The first census of Manipur in 1881 reported a total population of 2,21,070, of which 1,17,108 were Meiteis, 85,288 hill tribes, 105 foreigners, and Muslims, Loi, Kei and Mayang counted for 18, 569 (E.W. Dun: Gazetteer of Manipur, 1886). The figures for 1891 census are not available as the records were destroyed in the Anglo-Manipur War, 1891. The population figures from 1901 onwards are available and the present study will show the distribution pattern of population taking this as the base year.
On the basis of the population growth in Manipur, the period of 1901-1991 can be divided into the following three distinct phases:
I. 1901-1911: A period of progressive growth of population (20.71 percent) during which the natural increase was accelerated at a faster rate;
II. 1911-1951: A period of slow growth of population (13.66 percent) during which the rate of natural increase was counteracted by natural calamities and devastation caused by the World War II; and,
III. 1951-1991: A period of rapid growth of population (33.25 percent) during which the death rate declined and the birth rate remained more or less the same. In addition, the influx of immigrants has also to be accounted for.

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4. PATTERN OF POPULATION DISTRIBUTION:

The most striking feature of the distribution pattern of population in the State is its heavy concentration in the valley region in sharp contrast to the sparsely populated hilly areas. The distribution pattern of population in the state coincides with the three geographical regions of the state.
I. The Manipur Valley: The Manipur Valley, the area of major concentration of population, is the most fertile tract of the State where nearly two third of the state's population lives on 8.2 percent of its total area. Though the overall density of population is generally high in the valley region, the maximum concentration is found in the northern part of the valley. This overall high density is due to the level land, fertile soil, large percentage of arable land and irrigation facility. Moreover, the commercial as well as industrial activities of Imphal city have definitely contributed to the increase in population density, specially in and around the city. The northern valley comprises of two sub-plains, namely Imphal east and Imphal west having together a population of 6,77,215 persons in an area of about 908 square km. It has a total urban population of 2,85,713 which is 56.5 percent of the State's total urban population.

The southern Manipur valley also embraces two sub-plains, namely Bishenpur and Thoubal, and has a population of 4,74,731 persons over an area of 935 sq. km. Here, the population is largely concentrated in the eastern part, along the banks of Thoubal river and peripheral areas of Thoubal and Kakching towns. In the Bishenpur sub-plain there is scarcity of arable land and occurrence of floods. There are 15 small size urban centers in these sub-plains having a total population of 1,70,624 which accounts for 33.74 percent of the State's total urban population.
II. The Manipur Hill Region: The Manipur hill region comprises five hill districts, viz, Senapati, Tamenglong, Churachandpur, Chandel and Ukhrul having a total population of 6,51,156 persons, which represent 35.45 percent of the State population. The limited area of cultivable land, poor quality of soil, rugged topography, occupance of forests and ravine explain the sparsity of population in the hilly tracts. In the hill areas, however, there are thick clusters of population in wider valleys, while steep slopes and scarps are practically uninhabitable. The region has nine small size urban centers with a population of 70,927 persons or 14.0 percent of the States total population. Churachandpur town is the largest among these urban centers and it has a total urban population of 33,657.
III. The Jiribam Basin:   This small plain covers the area under Jiribam sub division which is a part of Imphal district in the west bordering Cachar district of Assam. It has an area of 387 square km and accommodates 34,046 percents or 1 percent of the state population. The population is mostly rural and engaged mainly in agriculture. Jiribam town with 5,969 persons is the only urban center here.

Table 1: REGION WISE DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION OF MANIPUR (1991)
I. Imphal East and West --- Area of 908 Sq. Km.--- Pop. 6,77,215--- Pop. Dens. 754
II. Thoubal-Bishnupur  ---  Area of 935 Sq. Km. --- Pop. 4,74,731--- Pop. Dens. 507
III. Manipur Hill Region --- Area of 20,097 Km --- Pop.  6,51,157 --- Pop. Dens  32

IV. Jiribam Basin    ----    area 387 sq. km.   ------   Pop. 34,046  ----- Pop dens.  88
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5. DISTRIBUTION OF RURAL AND URBAN POPULATION:

Out of the total population of 18, 37, 149 persons as many as 13,31,504 persons or 72.47 percent live in about 2035 villages and 5,05,645 persons or 27.53 percent live in 31 urban centers. In the Manipur valley 60.38 percent of its total population is rural, whereas 93.34 percent and 82.5 percent are rural population in the hill region and Jiribam basin respectively, where agriculture dominates the whole economy. The urban centers are mainly concentrated in the Manipur valley. Here are one Class I town (Imphal); two Class II towns (Kakching and Thoubal); five Class IV towns (Moirang, Nambol, Mayang Imphal, Lilong, Samurou), nine Class V towns ( Ningthoukhong, Bishenpur, Oinam, Kumbi, Wangoi, Yairipok, Sikhong Sekmai, Wangjing and Lamsang); and four Class VI towns (Lamlai, Sugnu, Sekami, and Heirok). The Jiribam Basin has only one Class V town, i.e. Jiribam itself.  There are nine urban centers in the Hill region. Churachandpur town includes in the Class III category and this town is the second biggest town in the state. Moreh, the international border belong to Class V town; and other Class VI towns include Tamenglong, Mao-Maram, Kangpokpi, Karong-Senapati, Ukhrul, Singhat and Loktak Hydro Electric Project Town.  Imphal, Churachandpur and Kakching are the most important towns having 50.3 percent of the total urban population of the State.

6. DISTRIBUTION OF MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS:

So far as the distribution of ethnic groups in Manipur is concerned, excepting the Meiteis, all the groups are distributed in different areas in the state. Majority of Meiteis are concentrated in the Manipur Valley and a greater part of the Jiribam Basin. They constitute about 55 percent of the total population of the State. Like the Meiteis, the Manipuri Muslims (Pangals, ~7.0 percent of total population) also are plain dwellers. They are found in some pockets of the valley region such as Lilong, Mayang Imphal, Yairipok, Khetrigao, Sora and Kwakta. The Nepalese are mostly concentrated in the Sadar hills of Senapati district where more than 50 percent of their population lives. They constitute about 2.65 percent of  the state population. The Bengali population of Manipur are mostly distributed in the southern part of the valley and the Jiribam basin (1.5 percent of population).
Of the tribal groups, the Tangkhuls are largely concentrated in Ukhrul district and they constitute 5.01 percent of the State's total population. The Maos and Marams are confined in the Senapati district. They represent about 4 percent of the total population. The Kabuis (Zeliangrongs) constitute 3.18 percent of the State's total population. They are mainly concentrated in the Tamenglong district and in some pockets of Manipur valley. The Paite population forms about 2 percent and they are mostly confined in the Churachandpur district. The Kukis (Thadou) form about 5 percent of the State's total population but they are scattered in different parts of the hill districts. However, majority of them are found in the Churachandpur district.
On the other hand, Hmars are concentrated in the blocks of Tipaimukh and Churachanpur, and they represent about 2 percent of the population of the state. The Vaipheis constitute about 1.03 percent and majority of them are found in the Churachandpur district. The Marings and Anals are found in the blocks of Tengnoupal subdivision (Chandel district) and Chandel town and they constitute ~1 percent.
It is seen that the Meiteis are the dominant ethnic group, consisting of about 55 percent of the State's total population. The various groups who belong to the Scheduled Tribes are scattered in the hill areas, and now a large proportion of tribal population may be found in the valley region particularly in and around Imphal Town.

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7. POPULATION-LAND RATIO:

The population number is closely related to the carrying capacity of land. It is more so in the case of Manipur, as agriculture is the sole support of more than 70 percent of the people here and the cultivated land is highly limited. Therefore, crude population density alone cannot reflect the actual situation of density in the state.
Physiological density and agricultural density of the areas rather convey a real picture about the pressure of population on land here. These two densities can be calculated by the following formulae. The "Population Density" is the Total Population divided by the Total Cultivated Area and "Agricultural Density" is equal to  the Agricultural Population (Cultivators and Agricultural Laborers) divided by Net Area Sown.
The physiological density of the state as a whole is 631 persons per sq.km. This speaks very well that the population in the state is not low as reflected by the arithmetic density. In the valley region the highest physiological density is found in Imphal West Block I (1070 persons per sq. Km.) followed by Imphal West block II (1000 per sq. Km). The blocks of Bishenpur, Thoubal, and Jiribam have physiological density of 700, 790, 640 persons per sq. km., respectively.  All these figures are much higher than the arithmetic density. The high concentration of people is thus evident in the entire valley region. This situation in the hill region also is no less acute. The physiological density is of the order of 501 to 1000 per square km in the blocks of Mao-Maram, Sadar hills East, Sadar hills west, Nungba, Chandel, Tengnoupal, Chakpikarong, Ukhrul central, Churachandpur and Singhat. In the remaining blocks, it varies from 200-500 persons per sq. Km. The situation is the case with agricultural density.   It varies from 144 persons per sq km in Phungyar block to 402 persons in Tipaimukh block. In the Jiribam it is 152 persons per sq km. In  the valley region it varies from 140-180 persons per sq km.
The agricultural density of the present magnitude in the State which lacks greatly land-resources thus strongly suggests  that the pressure of population on its land-resources is quite intense unless a balance between human resources and the natural and other resources is maintained, the present conditions may deteriorate further in the near future.

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8. CONCLUSION:

It is evident from the above analysis that the population distribution of MANIPUR is not only even but a quite contrasting character exists between the hills and the plains. The spatial pattern of population is that the general density in the hills is very low, the real density in terms of physiological and agricultural density, rather it is higher than the valley region. In fact, sparsity of population in the State is virtually a misnomer as most parts are highly dissected hilly terrain. In the valley region not only the general density is high, but physiological and agricultural density also are unusually high. This situation is more precarious in the northern part of the Manipur valley with exceedingly high population density. Imphal town, which is located in this part, is acting as the centripetal force leading to the present situation. If the present density pattern continues, the density will cross the critical situation in the northern part of the valley in the near future.
In short, the growth of population has its effect bearing on the land-use. The increasing number has resulted in the decrease of per capita net sown area. Therefore, while formulating plans and programme for land resources, it is essential to examine the entire man-land ratio in terms of its potential land and carrying capacity of land. As the pressure of population is increasing in the valley region, the low lying areas which have potential for development should be reclaimed to lessen the intensity of the same.
THE HIGH GROWTH OF POPULATION NEED TO BE CHECKED AT TWO LEVELS: (1) THE NATURAL INCREASE SHOULD BE LOWERED THROUGH ADOPTION OF APPROPRIATE FAMILY PLANNING MEASURES; AND (2) THE IMMIGRATION OF OUTSIDERS NEED TO BE CHECKED SO THAT IT MAY NOT UPSET THE PRESENT DEMOGRAPHIC STRUCTURE AND BECOME A BURDEN ON THE STATE'S LIMITED LAND-RESOURCES.

9. WEBEDITOR'S COMMENT:

Figures and tables from the original article have not been included. For further comments on the article, and for subscription and contribution of articles to the Journal, please contact the author and  the editor of the JMGS at:
Dr. A. Lalit Singh
The Editor,
Journal of the Geographical Society of Manipur
C/o Department of Geography
Oriental College, Imphal - 795001
Manipur
Phone: 91-385-225727



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