India, has the honor of proudly owning the largest river island in the world. It is situated on River Brahmaputra, in Assam, known as Majuli. The pristine island of Majuli was declared the largest riverine island in the world by Guinness Book of World Records. The island also acquired to become the first river island district of the country. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal did the honors.
The island is all beautiful and a very solitary getaway for tourists, but many might have missed out on one important fact about the eroding riverine island. The island is dealing with extreme beetle infestation.
Majuli has an approx population of 160,000 people, majority of whom depend on the agriculture to sustain themselves economically. The area is also an eco -diversity hub. However, since around the year 2005, mostly owing to the climate change on a larger scale, has caused a severe beetle infestation. Due to this infestation a lot of severe damage has come to the annual crops, especially those of potatoes, sugar canes, and green grams. This has been quite a bit of loss to local farmers.
The culprit, Lepidiota Mansueta beetle from Australia, is an invader that mates during the month of April and May, then spawns their eggs deep inside the soil. Depths such as that even the pesticides cannot reach them. A senior scientist at Assam Agricultural University, Badal Bhattacharya, says that the adults beetles aren’t much of a problem as are the beetle larvae. The larvae does more harm to the crops in the fields.
The researchers in Majuli have found an ingenious way to tackle this dreadful infestation, and that is, catch the beetles, and eat them. Scientist Bhattacharya and his team led an initiative of catching beetles in 2012, with this method of catching them and feasting on them. They devised a method to catch them by shining light on the fields as they are attracted to light and therefore, beetles are caught using solar LED light traps. They ran a slogan ‘Eat them before they eat your crops’. Thereafter, Bhattacharya led a massive campaign to promote the beetle as an edible and tasty source of protein. He also provides dishes made of beetles to locals and farmers for free, to promote the insect as a viable alternative food source, and very soon plans to expand it into a full-scale business venture. With dishes like plain roasted beetle with tomato, beetle fry, etc., locals believe the cuisine will soon catch on and catch the fancy of tourists.
ARE THE BEETLES SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION?
According to research, the insect is perfectly suitable for consumption, with a 76.83 percent protein content, 10.93 per cent carbohydrate content, 5.15 per cent fibre and 4.10 percent fat, and is also completely free of toxins. In the three years since the campaign, the number of insects caught per mating season has been on a steady increase and Bhattacharya’s team has also come up with several culinary insights into the cooking of beetles to make flavorful grub.
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The new innovations undertaken at Majuli, are done keeping in mind to bid Majuli to become one of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The project to explore ways of pest control is part of social engineering, where they are trying to control pests without using any pesticides. Excessive use of pesticides in the long run will only cause degradation of the quality of soil, affecting its fertility. This practice of consuming dishes made of beetle in Majuli, is very practical and entirely and innovative solution to an otherwise potentially dangerous problem.
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