Bamboo Flowering Puts India on Famine Alert

An entire region of India is bracing itself for the next wave of flowering of an indigenous bamboo — something that happens only every 50 years. The last time it happened, in the 1950’s, the event triggered famine and thousands of deaths in the area.

Vast areas of the region are covered in the bamboo, which is produced from an underground stem. After flowering, which happens all at once, the plants die back and have to start over again from seed.

Here’s the problem:

“The flowering produces so much fruit that it causes an explosion in the rat population.

However the flowers soon die, leaving the rats without abundant food from the bamboo. At this point, they begin attacking human crops and food stores.

Apparently, removing the bamboo is not a viable solution; there’s just too much of it, and more importantly,

“Bamboo is used for almost everything over there – their housing, their products, their livelihood supplies.

“The answer is not to get bamboo out of there and replace it with something else, because it’s so culturally tied up with the lives of the people there.”

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