Mizoram on alert over first fall armyworm attack

Mizoram on alert over first fall armyworm attack

Damaged maize plants in fall army-worm attack in Mizoram. Photos by J. Lalsianliana

The fear of possible re-run of famine-like situation witnessed 60-years ago has gripped Mizoram, following first ever fall armyworm attack on the state’s crucial maize cultivation.

The state agriculture department has issued an alert across the state as 1,409 hectares of maize cultivation has been severely damaged in all eight districts in the past one month.

“Our farmers have been caught unaware as we have never witnessed fall armyworm attack unlike in other states. This could be due to long dry spell and sudden increase in temperature. Some villages have seen 100% damage of their crops and this has made them scared,” joint director of department James Lalsianliana told DH from Aizawl, the state capital, on Saturday.

“Normally, we witness rainfall in March but the state has seen long dry spell and sudden rise in temperature. This could be due to climate change. We have formed rapid response teams to carry out the survey and use insecticides to check the problem,” he said. On April 15, Aizawl experienced temperature of 34.2 degree Celsius, its hottest day in 20-years.

Mizoram had witnessed massive rodent attack on its crops following mautam or large scale bamboo flowering in 1958-59 that culminated into a separatist movement led by late rebel leader, Laldenga six years later. More than 100 people had died due to famine-like situation caused by destruction of crops in rodent attacks. Mizoram was part of Assam then but the state government’s alleged failure to tackle the situation resulted the formation Mizo National Famine Front and later Mizo National Front (MNF). The front, led by Laldeng staged an uprising in 1966 and declared secession from India. The situation turned so serious that the Centre had to use air-force to tackle the Mizo rebels and force them sign an accord in 1986. Present Chief Minister Zoramthanga was a close aide of Landenga and had taken the helm of MNF following his death in 1990.

Maize and paddy are the two major crops in the hilly state and has nearly 5,900 hectares with maize cultivation at present.

“Although, the situation now is different, but our farmers are worried when their crops are damaged. The elders living in the remote areas fear the re-run of the famine and the troubled days that followed. So our government must act swift to control the situation,” said TBC Lalvengchunga, a leader of People’s Right to Information and Development Implementation Society of Mizoram (PRISM), an anti-corruption watchdog-turned political party. Lalvengchunga is contesting this election for the lone Lok Sabha seat.