Living Root Bridges Meghalaya

Meghalaya’s Living Bridges

- June 23, 2020

We are all aware that biological diversity is an asset to a secure future for generations.  International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on May 22 every year to increase awareness and educate the public about the rapidly decreasing and disappearing species and their importance in biological diversity. The United Nations chose “Our solutions are in nature” as the theme for 2020.

“This slogan emphasizes hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.”

The United Nations

While there are but a few well-executed examples of this slogan in the real world, one of the best models of this would be the living root bridges of North East India. 

Living root bridge
Ilustration: Divyesh Sangani

The village of Mawsynram and the town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya are the wettest places on earth, holding world records for the highest annual rainfall received. Heavy floods would often leave the Khasi and Jaintia tribes stranded in their homes. They tried building bamboo bridges but those couldn’t withhold the constant flooding. When man-made tools failed, the tribals turned to nature to find a solution, making use of the Indian rubber tree’s aerial roots to build sturdy bridges. 

This living, breathing, engineering marvel is the result of a lot of patience. One living root bridge is a result of 10 to 30 years of careful cultivation. 

  • First, a tree is planted on both sides of the river.
  • Second, wooden planks and bamboos are used to entangle and tie the roots of the two trees together, which also guides the growth of the roots. This helps in stronger bonding between the roots of the two trees.
  • Third, when the roots are long and strong enough, the trees are planted deeper in the ground for the longevity of the bridge. 
  • Finally, the living root bridge grows strong enough to hold around 35 people at a time. 

It is not easy but the solutions are there in nature if only we look out for it. The sooner we look out, the better. 

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