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Falam villagers use home-made guns in battle against rats

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A plague of rats has grown so pervasive in three villages in Falam Township in northern Chin State that villagers have had to add home-made guns to their arsenal in the battle against the pests, villagers said.

Rats have destroyed about seven acres (2.8 hectares) of rice paddy, maize and tomato farms since the infestation hit on July 15, forcing villagers to fashion their own firearms instead of the township-supplied poison, which had killed also their livestock and pets, a local Baptist pastor told Mizzima.

“When they used guns I felt very uneasy. The Township Peace and Development Council sold rat-poison packages at just 500 Kyats (about 50 US cents) per package. But the poison also killed chickens, pigs and family pets so the villagers prefer to use guns to combat the rats”, Pastor Nun Lian Thang, the general secretary of Falam Baptist Association, said.

A villager from Lumbang said the rats were extremely voracious and appeared impervious to fear. 

“We could see the rats running rampant on the farm. They seemed fearless when we tried to frighten them. When I threw stones at them, they ran away but after a few minutes, we could see them again,” he said. “Our farm covers about two acres. The rats ate half the gourds and pumpkins but they never eat the whole fruit. At least they’ve not entered the village.”

Gunpower, stones and pieces of cloth are used to load the barrels of the home-made weapons used in the three villages, and in Lumpang, one third of about 100 families have the do-it-yourself cannons.

Thangpawl Mountain, six miles to the west, has so far formed a natural barricade against the spread of the plague to the 13 villages beyond, and villagers fear they are making a last stand to prevent further problems, such as complete loss of crops.

“If we can’t combat them, the rat-infestation will be spread. The villages are not too far from each other. If the rats can pass Thangpawl Mountain, the rat infestation will spread. Then, we can’t do anything and widespread famine will result”, Pastor Nun Lian Thang said.

A member of Falam Township Peace and Development Council shared the pastor’s concerns.

“We worry that the disaster will spread to other villages. This is the season of maize and tomato so we need a plan to address the problem. We need to combat the rats before the situation gets out of control,” he said.

In July 2008, five townships in Chin State: Hakha, Falam, Thantlang, Palatwa and Matupi; faced chronic food shortages after the bamboo flowered, a natural phenomenon that occurs every 50 years.

The rats eat the bamboo flowers and multiply exponentially.

That year, they destroyed not only crops but went into kitchens and devoured all the meat vegetables, creating widespread food shortages that affected about 70,000 people. Residents from Thantlang had to depend entirely on fruits and other plants from nearby forests for food, leaving 44 children dead from food poisoning, according to exiled Chin humanitarian groups.

Some townships in Chin State remained short of food, residents said.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 August 2010 02:03 )  

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