India’s living root bridges look like they came out of ‘The Lord of the Rings’

What a fine example of bioengineering for a sustainable infrastructure solution. Source: Shutterstock.

TWO-THIRDS OF INDIA’S POPULATION reside in rural areas and these people endure inadequate infrastructure, poor access to services and resources, and markets.

But that hasn’t stopped them from making the most out of what they have.

The northeast Indian region, deep inside the valleys of Meghalaya (which means the “abode of clouds”), often receives notoriously heavy rainfall of up to 470 inches a year.

This causes waterways to swell, leaving some of the most remote villages cut off. In order to cross the swollen rivers, the Khasi Tribe communities living in the valleys have devised an ingenious natural solution, using tree roots to form crossings.

And these fantasy-adventure-like plant-based constructions resemble something that belongs in “The Lord of the Rings”.

Source: Shutterstock.

Locally known as jing kieng jri, the intricate living root bridges are grown over a period of 15 to 30 years. Khasis plant Ficus trees on either side of the streams and slowly weave the roots to join midway to form a bridge.

The process takes years of nurturing and requires regular tending to until the roots reach the opposite bank. Eventually, it’ll grow into a bridge capable of carrying people.

Source: Shutterstock.

Unlike steel suspension bridges and concrete bridges, these living root bridges don’t rot in the rain.

In fact, they are exceptionally endurant and resilient, withstanding flash flooding and storms, and becoming stronger with age. The bridges can carry an impressive upwards of 50 people at a time and survive several centuries.

A fine example of bioengineering for sustainable infrastructure solutions, the exact origin of this living plant-based construction is unknown, but the first written record appears more than a century ago.

Source: Shutterstock.

Meghalaya’s lush green forests are also home to a large variety of mammals and 660 species of birds, as well as majestic waterfalls and picturesque lakes.

Despite being a remote state, its far-flung villages are accessible to tourists and is a major attraction for nature lovers.