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India’s Iconic "Living Root Bridges" Considered For UNESCO World Heritage Status

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Katy Evans

Managing Editor

clockApr 1 2022, 17:16 UTC
living root bridge

The incredible living root bridges have been made by the indigenous Khasi tribal communities for centuries. Image credit: SurabhiArtss/Shutterstock.com

No, the image above isn’t a movie still from the latest jungle-plundering adventure by The Rock, Sandra Bullock, or even Harrison Ford himself. These are India’s iconic “living root bridges” – and they’ve just been put forward to UNESCO for potential World Heritage Status.  

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Found in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India, the bridges – a type of suspension bridge formed of living roots manipulated to grow over bamboo scaffolding – can take decades to create. As pretty as they look, they are vital for travel and transport through dense, wet jungles.

The Jingkieng Jri, as they are locally known, have been grown by Indigenous Khasi tribal communities for centuries. When your home is mountainous, full of waterfalls, ravines, and rivers, you have to get creative about how best to travel around – and in a treacherous, dense jungle, sometimes the ground is not the best route.

These living bridges are made from bamboo structures stretched across a river and the roots of rubber trees (Ficus elastica) that are teased and encouraged by humans to grow around the bamboo, creating a strong mesh that, incredibly, can carry up to 50 people at a time and even people on horseback.

living land bridge
Image credit: dhritipurna/Shutterstock.com 

“I am thrilled to announce that our 'Jingkieng Jri: Living Root Bridge Cultural Landscapes of Meghalaya' has been included in the @UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list,” tweeted cabinet minister for Meghalaya, James Sangma.

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“The living root bridges not only stand out for their exemplary human-environment symbiotic relationship but also focus on their pioneering use for connectivity and resilience, and the need to adopt sustainable measures to balance economy and ecology.”

Placing the bridges on UNESCO's "tentative list" is the first step toward submitting them for consideration for World Heritage Status, given to places of "Outstanding Universal Value to Humanity" to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.  

"Grown by Indigenous Khasi tribal communities, these structural ecosystems have performed in extreme climatic conditions for centuries, and encapsulate a profound harmony between humans and nature," UNESCO describes them. "The underlying knowledge and skill has evolved through generations and continues to be practiced today, affirming its exceptional value and relevance."

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[H/T: The Guardian]


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