Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mautam-ravaged Mizoram

Mautam - is a cyclic ecological phenomenon that occurs every 48 years in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, which is thirty percent covered by wild bamboo forests

How it works- After flowering, the bamboo dies and regenerates from the seeds. The rodents feast on these seeds which are available in plenty, which as an indirect consequence, causes a sudden boom in its population. The action of the rats is thought to be an ecological control mechanism. The seeds of any culm of bamboo that might flower off-cycle are all eaten up by rodents, thus reinforcing the rhythm of this extreme version of a mast year. Some experts believe that the flower has a positive effect on the fertility of the rats, as well as on increasing the viable size of a rat litter. All available explanations point to the fact that the increase in their numbers during the peak year is a natural after-effect of the flowering of the bamboos.
- Wikipedia Mautam

New jhum fields that are being cleared for slash and burn cultivation this year. But people are apprehensive about the fruits of their labour as the fear of rodents still looms large. And with a majority of cultivators, there are practically no seeds to sow.
Zangaiema was the president of the village council in a village called Builum. They were displaced two years ago by the Serlui B hydel project. Now they are rehabilitated near Kolasib town. Although he was given some compensation and some people came to settle near town, many still remain in the village dissatisfied with the compensation. Zangaiema still has cane fields in the village and that supported him. But with the rats, everything is gone now. These are the nowhere people - displaced from their land and livelihood.
Lalrinzuali, 25, is getting ready to collect firewood in the village of Lungmuat, Kolasib district, Mizoram. This area badly affected by the food shortage that is plaguing much of Mizoram. Families such as this – who normally have a hard time making ends meet – are hit hardest by food scarcity. With no purchasing power and the cushion of rice stock destroyed by the rodents, these families have to look for food substitutes such as wild herbs and vegetables and tubers like the one seen in the photo, that they gather from the hills.
Lalmunmauii is in her mid thirties and live in Darlak village, Mamit district. She has just returned home after collecting water snails at a nearby river. Her kitchen, without food or vegetables, has to be replenished with whatever she can get by selling the snails. Trapped in the food scarcity that has hit Mizoram after the phenomenon of bamboo flowering, many people have resorted to fishing for snails and other forms of livelihood to sustain them. Having lost their entire crop produce including chillies and sesame seeds to the rodents that wreaked havoc in many parts of Mizoram, families such as that if Lalhmunmauii are living in a harsh present and an uncertain future. With limited government help, zero purchasing power and no stock of foodgrain, they look into bleak prospects of feeding families – sometimes single-handedly – where number of members range from four to eigh
The government has allegedly failed to handle the crisis, leaving people to eke out a living by selling snails at Rs. 15 a kg. Many families now also depend on snails for dietary consumption. Though snails are not completely alien to cuisine in many parts of the region. But these have now become a regular feature owing to severe scarcity in foodgrains and lack of buying power to procure other food.

Picture Source: Action Aid Picassia Album

Mizoram in Distress -

Distress sales of land and property are being reported across the state as farmers exhaust their reserves. Buyers are usually traders and government officials.

"The local fishing pond provided seasonal income in our village but now even that is up for sale, at far below the market rate. Last year’s floods destroyed wet rice fields and dealt a severe blow to fishing stocks. Now it is desperate time," a man from Darlak village, Mamit district told the assesment team.

A large number of families who practice slash and burn cultivation say they cannot prepare for the next crop as the rat menace is still not past its worst.

“People do not have food for tomorrow. We are afraid to plant anything because the rats consume everything, even cash crops like oranges and vegetables like pumpkins and chilies,” said J Rochunga, a man from the Lai community in Poithar village in the Lawngtlai district.
Source : Action Aid

Also See :
ActionAid set to relieve Mautam-ravaged Mizoram -
'emergency measures taken up by the state government have by and large proved inadequate in the face of food crisis.'' The relief packages would be delivered with the help of 40 volunteers from the Aizawl-based coordinating partner Centre for Peace and Development and Lai Young Association.
Food items, including 25,000 kgs of rice, 1,750 kgs of dal and 500 kgs of iodised salts, would be delivered to 10 villages - Tuisentlang, Mautlang, Chamdur project I, Chamdur project II, Lunghauka, Laitlang, Tuidumzau, Betsury, Bolisora and Fangfarlui in southern Mizoram.
Source : Webindia


  1. I ziak chipchiarin a bengvarthlak hle mai aa... Document tha tak a ni e. Baffacos chungchang te pawh han ti law law la maw le:)

  2. @ Pu Mafaka, i ti lawm awm e, NGO lian ho pawh hian Sorkar hi han tanpui zel se a tha in ka ring, nia, Baffacos chu next post ah dah ka lo tum ang e, kan research deuh hlek ang a.

  3. Thank you once again for the usual well researched article. This is another post worthy of forwarding to my friends. Keep writing.