Trees shrouded in ghostly cocoons line the edges of a submerged farm field in the Pakistani village of Sindh, where 2010's massive floods drove millions of spiders into the trees to spin their webs
By Thulasi Muttulingam
Beginning last July, unprecedented monsoons dropped nearly 10 years' worth of rainfall on Pakistan in one week, swelling the country's rivers. The water was slow to recede, creating vast pools of stagnant water across the countryside. "It was a very slow-motion kind of disaster," said Russell Watkins, a multimedia editor with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the organization tasked with managing Britain's overseas aid programmes.
According to Watkins, who photographed the trees during a trip to Pakistan last December, people in Sindh said they'd never seen this phenomenon before the flooding.
At the height of the crisis, the flooded region covered an area the size of England. Nearly 2,000 people died during the disaster and 20 million people were affected, according to the Pakistani Government.
"More people were affected by the flooding than the combined total of the Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 Pakistan earthquake,  Haiti earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina," John Barrett, head of DFID's Flood Response Team, said in a statement.
As part of the international response, DFID mounted the UK's largest humanitarian operation yet.
"Any kind of vegetation that was above ground was affected, literally every kind of tree and bush," Watkins said of the widespread spider webs.
While unusual, trees cocooned in spider webs are not unprecedented. Scientists have reported similar webs in other parts of the world, the tropics in particular. In 2007, for instance, a superintendent at Lake Tawokoni State Parkin Texas discovered a giant spider web among the trees.
Watkins said he didn't know which type of spider was responsible for the tree cocoons in Sindh. But in the case of Lake Tawokoni, scientists determined that dozens of spider species were spinning the communal webs.
Most of the floodwaters in Sindh and the surrounding region have now receded, and people are slowly returning to what's left of their towns and villages.
"Virtually 90% of displaced populations in Pakistan have returned, but most of the communities that were there were completely destroyed," Watkins said.(Ceylon Today Online)