- Meghalaya’s Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya, which highlights the socio-cultural, social and botanical links among people and nature, is vying for tag of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Meghalaya’s Jingkieng Jri (Living Root Bridge) are trailblazers that not only highlight the symbiotic relationship between Nature and human culture to a global audience, but more so, it focuses on the need to adopt a balanced approach between economy and ecology, something which the state Government has been working tirelessly in the past few years.
- This was acknowledged by the Chief Minister Conrad. K. Sangma on the National Convention on Community and Science based mostly Conservation Research and Development of Jingkieng Jri held on the state Convention Center, Shillong.
About living root bridge
- The jing kieng jri or living root bridges — aerial bridges built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree — have been serving as connectors for generations in Meghalaya.
- Spanning between 15 and 250 feet and built over centuries, the bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers, have also become world-famous tourist attractions.
- Now, new research investigates these structures and proposes to integrate them in modern architecture around the world, and potentially help make cities more environment – friendly.
What is extraordinary about this?
- A root bridge uses traditional tribal knowledge to train roots of the Indian rubber tree, found in abundance in the area, to grow laterally across a stream bed, resulting in a living bridge of roots.
- The process begins with placing of young pliable aerial roots growing from Ficus elastica (India rubber) trees in hollowed out Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks.
- These provide essential nutrition and protection from the weather, and also perform as aerial root guidance systems.
- Over time, as the aerial roots increase in strength and thickness, the Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks are no longer required.”
Why Ficus elastica?
- Ficus elastica is conducive to the growth of bridges because of its very nature.
- There are three main properties:
- They are elastic.
- The roots easily combine and
- The plants grow in rough, rocky soils.
- Researchers from Germany investigated 77 bridges over three expeditions in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya during 2015, 2016 and 2017.
- The study suggests that the bridges can be considered a reference point for future botanical architecture projects in urban contexts.
- The traditional techniques of the Khasi people can promote the further development of modern architecture.
Can this really be replicated elsewhere?
- Regarding the techniques and approaches of Living Root Bridges, we are in an early research phase.
- There are first concepts how to transfer the idea, but no concrete plans for projects yet.
- A pointer might lie in the deteriorating health of certain root bridges in Meghalaya.
- While there are hundreds of such bridges, the two most popular (Riwai Root Bridge and Umshiang Double Decker Bridge) have borne the brunt of recent tourism growth.
- Both these bridges have been adversely affected in the past ten years. This is because of the introduction of modern architecture such as new concrete footpaths, building etc around the bridge that have impacted that bridge health.
- There are cracks in them. Now the bridges are too weak to accommodate people beyond a capacity.
World Heritage Site
- A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.
- The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”.
- To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.
Which of the following UNESCO cultural Heritage Site is in Bihar?
- Taj Mahal
- The Jantar Mantar
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier
- Nalanda Mahavihara