Bamboo Flowering in Mizoram - Mizoram NBM

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Bamboo Flowering in Mizoram


              Mizoram has always suffered from famine known  locally as  'Mautam' or  'Thingtam' every few decades. The problem is caused by the synchronous flowering of  bamboo species which naturally flower and then die at regular intervals. When bamboo has flowered, it produces many seeds and fruit causing rodent  feeding  frenzies  increasing  their  population  in  great  numbers.  In  any  case,  the Mautam  / Thingtam always leads to dramatic increase in local rat populations as well as producing swarms of  insects, which  then spread  to  the human  food storage areas after  the natural harvest  is exhausted, destroying stocks and food crops. Historically,  it  led to death by starvation (102  in 1859) and even today presents much hardship  to many  rural  communities whose very  survival depends on  a  successful harvest.The famines are called after the name of  the bamboo that flowers. Melocanna baccifera  is called "Mautak" in mizo and the famine that  is caused by  its flowering  is named "Mautam". When Bambusa  tulda flowers, it is called "Rawthing" in mizo, the consequent famine is known as "Thingtam". The first Thingtam famine in 1739 was followed by a Mautam in 1769. A Mautam famine occurs 30 years after a Thingtam famine and the  latter occurs 18 years after a Mautam. This gives a cycle of  around 48 years. There was a Mautam famine in 2006- 2007 and so a Thingtam is expected in 2025. The next more severe Mautam famine  is expected  in 2055.

Melocana baccifera(Mautak)
Bambusa tulda(Rawthing)
------- 1880 -1884 
1910 – 1912
1928 – 1929
1958 – 1959
1976 – 1977
2005 – 2007
2020 – 2025*
* Expected
          Mizoram Remote Sensing Application Centre(MIRSAC),Aizawl  in  collaboration  with  the  North  Eastern  Space Application Centre (NESAC), Shillong studied bamboo flowering from 2005  to 2008. It was reported  that as a whole  the  total bamboo area of   the State before gregarious  flowering  (i.e.  from  the base reference bamboo layer of  2005) was 5,697.29 sq. km. comprising 27.02%  of   the  geographical  area  of   the  State.  The  analysis  of  bamboo  area  for  the  year  2006  presents  a  different  picture,  as phonologically speaking; the bamboos mapped during this year had started  to  flower.  This  has  changed  the  overall  area  statistics, resulting  in  a  decrease  in  previous  green  bamboo  coverage. However, to counteract to this decrease, there is some addition to the  green  cover  of   bamboo  from  newly  regenerated  bamboos resulting as secondary succession of  abandoned jhum. The figure may not be large but it does contribute a significant amount to the total cover of  bamboos
          The  year  2008  saw  a  tremendous  increase  in  bamboo flowering owing to the gregarious flowering periods during 2007. The  area  statistics  for  bamboo  flowering  in  the  8  districts  of  Mizoram during 2006 is given in Table 1. Area wise, Lunglei district 2contributed the highest bamboo flowering of  854.63 km  (68.88% of   total bamboo area  in  the district) compared  to other districts.
            Percentage-wise, when compared with the total bamboo cover in each district,Kolasib and Saiha districts recorded a high of  81.15% and 83.07%,  respectively.  It  indicated  that almost entire bamboo area  in  the districts had started  to  flower. Except  for Mamit and Champhai whose percentage of  bamboo flowering was below the 50% mark, it can be inferred that in all the other districts more than half  of   the  total bamboo areas have  flowered. When compared with bamboo flowering in 2006, the phenomenon in 2008 has increased drastically with more that 60% of  bamboo flowering in all districts except  for Mamit  and Champhai districts). As  a whole, bamboo flowering  in 2008 accounted  for 3,312.61 km , which was 56.88% of  the  total bamboo area  (Table 2).

           When making  a  cross  reference between  the  initial bamboo  cover  that existed  in 2005 with what had flowered  in 2008,  it can be concluded that maximum  flowering  have  occurred  in  Lawngtlai  and  Saiha districts. Both of  these districts crossing a high of  90% and 92.88% when  compared  to  statistics of  bamboo  in 2005.
            The  impact  of   this  change  is  also  seen  in  the  amount  of  bamboo stock that the State has lost. Investigations on this part of  impact showed  that, a  total of  331.43 million culms of  bamboo have been lost due to flowering in 2006. Following this trend and with an immense  increase, a  total of  3324.63 million culms were  lost again  in 2008  due  to  this  phenomenon. These  losses were  prominent  inAizawl and Mamit districts with an estimated  loss of  118.80 and 47.15 million  culms,  respectively  during  2006.  Serchhip  district which also has vast resources of  bamboo faced a tremendous loss during  the onset of   the phenomenon with  an  estimated  loss of  43.69 million  culms  in  2006.  To  summarize,  the  overall  change  in  bamboo  cover  due  to flowering,  the  total  bamboo  flowering  area during  2006-2008  was 3,675.20 sq km. accounting to 64.50% of  total bamboo area in 2005.

          Further,sporadic flowering of Dendrocalamus longispathus(Rawnal) is being witnessed in  certain parts  of Mizoram  since late 2013 and the process of flowering  is still going on till today.However,the affected areas  in different forest divisions  are yet to be estimated.

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