Ever growing number of tourists from Assam and Bengal have seriously damaged the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya forcing the nearby villagers to come around and volunteer themselves to repair the century old bridges, which receive average 1,20,000 tourists a year.
The Villagers in Nohwet village in the southern slopes of Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district on last weekend gathered near the root bridges and repaired the bridge, which has been growing since their forefathers.
The root bridge was getting damaged as tourists had lined it with large stones to help them cross it easily. These stones were damaging the natural growth of bridge by slowly putting stress on the roots.
Led by Village headman Bose Swell Khongthohrem , the other villagers came out in numbers and removed the slabs.
“In their place, dead wood from jackfruit trees mixed with a light layer of soil was used which according to the locals is a great source of nutrients for the roots,” said the village headmen.
Areca nut trees were laid on top of this layer so that people could walk on the bridge without stepping directly on the roots to prevent further damage. As part of the drive, residents also planted several ‘Ficus elastica’ or rubber tree saplings, which would transform into living root bridges over the years.
These living root bridges are considered a marvel of nature and a big attraction among tourists visiting the northeastern state.
A living root bridge is formed by guiding the pliable roots across a stream or river, and then allowing the roots to grow and strengthen over time until they can hold the weight of a human being. The young roots are sometimes tied or twisted together, and are often encouraged to combine with one another via the process of inosculation.
As they are made from living, growing, organisms, the useful lifespan of any given living root bridge is variable. It is thought that, under ideal conditions, a root bridge can last for many hundreds of years. As long as the tree from which it is formed remains healthy, the bridge will naturally self-renew and self-strengthen as its component roots grow thicker, the Wikepedia reports.
Often, locals using root bridges will make small alterations to them, manipulating young roots as the opportunity presents itself. Because of this, one can say that the development of a living root bridge is very much a social endeavor, and that the structures are perpetual works in progress.
According to the Wikepedia,living root bridges are known to occur in the West Jaintia Hills district and East Khasi Hills district. In the Jaintia Hills, examples of Living Root Bridges can be found in and around the villages of Shnongpdeng, Nongbareh, Khonglah, Padu, Kudeng Thymmai and Kudeng Rim.
In the East Khasi Hills, living root bridges nearby Cherrapunji now called Sohra are known to exist in and around the villages of Tynrong, Mynteng, Nongriat, Nongthymmai, and around Laitkynsew.
East of Sohra (Cherrapunjee), examples of living root bridges are known to exist in the Khatarshnong region, in and around the villages of Nongpriang, Sohkynduh, Rymmai, Mawshuit, and Kongthong. Many more can be found near Pynursla and around the village of Mawlynnong.
At over 50 meters in length, the longest known example of a living root bridge is near the small Khasi town of Pynursla, India. It can be accessed from either of the villages of Mawkyrnot or Rangthylliang.