Death of the bamboo

It all started while I was visiting Mizoram last week. I posted a picture of a Bamboo tree flowering on Instagram.

On seeing my picture a friend who hails from Assam sent me a message saying find out interesting details about your picture from locals. At that time I was going to Reiek Tlang so I kind of ignored his comments but later in the evening when I returned to my Hotel, I started asking questions. The two staff,  I contacted did not know anything about it but in the morning when I asked the manager he told me the following story.

Bamboo flowers

Every 48 years a cyclic ecological phenomenon occurs in Mizoram & Manipur and in Chin state in Mynmar particularly Hakha, Thantlang, Falam, Paletwa and Matupi. In local language (Mizo) it is called Mautam.

Both Mizoram and Manipur are covered by wild bamboo forests. When the Bamboo blooms it causes a rat boom, which in turn creates a widespread famine. Locals believe that the flowers which drop on the ground turns into rats which then destroy the bamboos.

According to records these famines have played a very big role in shaping the area’s  political history. In 2006, the Army had to be called in to stop the famine. In 1862 during the British occupation, Mizoram had a famine and again in 1911. The records show that the flowering of the bamboo lead to a dramatic increase in the local rat population which in turn lead to raids on granaries and the destruction of  paddy in fields  and subsequently famine.

As most the population living in far flung areas indulge in farming only, this impacts their lives for years to come.

Now NGOs and Govt agencies are teaching locals to kill/poison rats, built fences etc but it is not enough.

Living so far away from there in Gurgaon, if I had heard this story I would have ignored it as village tales but having visited the area I understand the importance of the problem.  Thank you Dhrubo Borkotoky for making me realise the importance of this menace.

A video of the menace

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