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Rats haunt central China cropland
www.chinaview.cn 2005-06-17 22:51:48

    CHANGSHA, June 17 (Xinhuanet) -- The rising water level in China's second largest freshwater Dongting Lake, in the central Hunan Province, since late May has driven a massive field rats migration from their living islets to the southern cropland, bringing about the area's gravest rat crisis in the last ten years.

    The rats rampantly nibbled the roots and stems of the crops, making thousands of hectares of farmland useless.

    The climate in the Dongting basin is temperate and rainfall is plentiful. The alluvial plain around the lake makes it one of China's major rice and cotton bases.

    People used to see the pleasing harvest of the early season rice and smell the luring scents of melons in June; yet what the Xinhua reporter saw in the Nangang Village of Yuanjiang City's Chapanzhou Township was large areas of sapless rice.

    Walking on the field ridges, one can always see a flock of ratsleaping up from the weeds. The farmers had to leave their own workand kept driving the rats away with wooden sticks.

    But their efforts seem next to futile. The rats teased the people by walloping from one hollow to another, which are thickly dotted on the rice land.

    "A great number of field rats which lived on the islets of Dongting Lake migrated to the farmland due to the rising water level of the lake. The rats live on the roots and stems of grass and crop and the rice seedlings are delicacies to them," said WangYong, a researcher at Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    According to the township's vegetation protection station, there are about 300 to 500 rats in each mu (0.067 hectare) of the farmland. In some cropland, the number could exceed 1000.

    "Our family has three mu (0.2 hectare) of early rice. In the past each mu could produce more than 400 kilograms of rice, but this year we may gain nothing," said Zhang Guocai, farmer of the township's Suhutou Village with a bitter look on his face.

    Villager Wu Chuanxi ground his teeth when mentioning the rats, "we have nearly three mu of paddy but one third were destroyed by the rats within a few days. The rats are just like robbers."

    The seven mu (0.47 hectare) of early rice grown by villager NieQiulin was ravaged by the rats and less than one third was left.

    "Countless rats rushed to raid my rice land. They crazily nibbled the crop. Some even can not find the place to lay their feet and just stayed on the back of others," said Nie, who recalled the scene to be "terrifying."

    The latest statistics from Chapanzhou Township said about 20,000 mu (1333 hectares) of farmland were hit by the rats, in which 1500 mu (100 hectares) were completely destroyed and will end in fruitlessness.

    "Some other crops like pumpkins, water melons, cotton and aspenseedlings are also involved in the terrible disaster," said Liu Guoteng, vice secretary of Yuanjiang City Committee.

    The official said the rats have ravaged 65,000 mu (4333 hectares) of farmland in the city, including 32,000 mu (2133 hectares) of early rice, which will soon be harvested.

    The rats calamity has already pervaded the city's 40 villages of six townships.

    At the same time, the Datonghu District and Ziyang District of the city of Yiyang also reported suffering from a massive rat calamity.

    Ye Rennan, vice director of the agricultural and water resources bureau of Datonghu District, said more than 30,000 mu (2000 hectares) of farmland was "visited by the rats."

    The local vegetation protection station said in some places every square meter can see ten to fifteen rats, which means 6000 rats per mu (0.067 hectare).

    More than 100,000 mu (about 6666.7 hectares) of farmland to thesouth of the Dongting Lake was ravaged by the rats this summer andChinese Academy of Sciences Researcher Wang Yong said it is the most serious rat calamity in this area since 1995.

    The local government had taken some actions in order to bring the disaster under control but the situation still seems to be worsening.

    Xinhua reporters saw the officials counting the tails of rats in the government of Shapanzhou Township. An official said the farmers handed in more than 1000 rat tails in two days and for each one they could get 0.2 yuan (two cents) pay.

    Governments of all levels in the area are trying every method possible to eliminate the rats.

    Shapanzhou Township has already allocated 170,000 yuan (about 20,556 US dollars) in a fight against the rampant rats. The costlyactions have already made it difficult for some governments to make ends meet.

    Experts said that the field rats reproduced at tremendous speeds on the islets of Dongting Lake in recent years due to its long-time low water level. Along with the rising water, more rats will invade the nearby farmland.

    When the water level returns to its lower state, there will emerge another massive migration back to the islets, which is alsoprobable to form a calamity, the experts said.

    Wang said the governments of all levels around the Dongting Lake should establish a regular monitoring and reporting system onthe rat situation.

    At the same time, experts are also warning the local epidemic prevention departments to be highly alert of the possible epidemicdiseases coming with the rat calamity. Enditem

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