The northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya’s living root bridges, or jing kieng jri, have been added to UNESCO’s tentative list as a first step toward the renowned World Heritage Site classification. The Khasi and Jaintia people construct the root bridges in south Meghalaya by weaving the Indian rubber (Ficus elastica) tree’s roots into suspension bridges over rivers.
These robust bridges could take up to 10 to 15 years to reach their final shape and span between 15 and 250 feet. Most of them only have one span, but some do, like the renowned Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, which has two. The root bridges exist in a range of sizes and shapes and were constructed over several centuries. These unusual bridges over rivers and streams have been carved using a variety of methods.
The tentative list of sites from India’s northeast, which consists of eight border states, now includes the live root bridges of Meghalaya as the eighth entry. The next step would be to submit them to the committee for consideration.
Methods of creating Root Bridges
The necessary structure can be achieved by merely pulling and twisting the roots by hand or they can be carved by erecting temporary wooden and bamboo frameworks, which are crossed by the growing roots. In order for the roots to support the weight of humans walking on them, they must first be strengthened.
How many Root Bridges are there?
The government has submitted 72 villages in south Meghalaya that have living root bridges, and UNESCO has now included them to its list.
In order to establish the bridges’ “exceptional universal worth,” as was specified by the U.N. agency, the government has identified five factors.
Factors why Root Bridge has exceptional universal worth
These bridges exhibit a distinctive ethno-botanical journey that is deeply rooted in “culture-nature reciprocity and synthesis,” which suggests a masterpiece of human creative talent.
In addition, they reveal an essential survival technique that has developed through testing, indicating a “great breakthrough” in nature-based engineering.
The bridges represent the coming together of various aspects of regional cultures, including traditional farming and craft, preservation of the soil, water, and forests, adaptation to climate change, and resilience to it.
They also represent the distinctive social structure of the Khasi-Jaintia communities, which includes the laws of inherited wealth and transfer of power as well as village-based governance.
Furthermore, according to the administration, the bridges are rooted in a shared tribal identity and a spirit of collaboration that have been fostered by traditional Khasi morality, belief, and etiquette.
Root Bridges have a positive effect on the environment
Finally, it has been discovered that the bridges can promote inclusive growth across several generations with a high level of sturdiness and durability in difficult circumstances. They also have a positive effect on the land, water, and forest in the neighborhood.
Root Bridge is a masterpiece of living architecture
Today, the jingkieng jri serve as a significant proof of concept for engineers and designers interested in using living architecture in addition to being a major tourist attraction. Although incorporating plants into architectural design encourages biodiversity and reduces the demand for hazardous building materials, it can take generations to test and perfect the best building techniques. In an effort to incorporate elements of the Khasi tradition into projects in their own nations, bioengineers from all over the world are researching the living root bridges.
Root Bridge in Meghalaya was also featured on National Geographic
A pioneer in illustrating the biological and socio-cultural connections between nature and human civilization, Meghalaya’s renowned Umshiang Double-Decker “Living Root Bridge” was named by National Geographic TV as one of the most amazing places in the world to visit.
Scientists claim that “Living Root Bridges” should be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site because it protects a number of critically endangered plant and animal species.
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