Mautam, the flowers of famine

MAUTAM: The large-scale flowering of Mautak or Mau (Melocanna baccifera) species of bamboo.

HISTORY

1959: Resulted in a famine which triggered off insurgency that lasted two decades from 1966

2007: Mautam, which began in 2002, set to peak. Mau expected to flower across 6,556 sq km of Mizoram, about 25 per cent of the state

Vermin's delight

With bamboo flowers and seeds as food, rat population multiplies. "They then go on to attack paddy fields," says Plant Protection Officer James Lalsiamliana. Huge swarms of insects also arrive during this period.

Insecticides are effective in countering these outbreaks. "But sprayers are expensive. A village might have 200 farmers and only two sprayers; they have to be used in rotation," says Lalsiamliana. Monsoon also poses a serious challenge as rain washes away the

insecticides.

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