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Bamboo, Rats and Famines: Famine Relief and Perceptions of British Paternalism in the Mizo Hills (India)

Sajal Nag

Environment and History 5(1999): 245-252

As the British entered the Mizo hills (part of the Indo-Burmese range of hills, then known as the Lushai hills) to chase the headhunting tribal raiders and try to gain control over them by securing a foothold in the heart of the hills at Aizawl, they witnessed an amazing ecological phenomenon: a severe famine apparently caused by rats. The Mizo hills are covered extensively by various species of bamboo, which periodically rot, flower and seed. The bamboo seeds appeared to be a delicious food item for jungle rats, which emerged in massive numbers to devour them, and the consumption of bamboo seeds seemed to produce a vast increase in the rodent population. Once the millions of rats had exhausted the bamboo seed, they began to attack the standing crops in the fields. As they devoured the grains the resulting scarcity of food led to massive hardship, starvation and deaths....


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