Meghalaya's living aerial root bridges -how they got UNESCO's tentative world heritage site tag ?

root bridges NE India

In the 3rd week of March this year after a long struggle by the state government,  the Living Root bridges of Meghalaya were  included in UNESCO's tentative list for World Heritage Site. It is a good news for the environmentalists and 'Nature' lovers.  

Chief Minister of that state Conrad K Sangma in his tweet posted on his social media accounts said,  ''Delighted to share that ‘Jingkieng Jri: Living Root Bridge Cultural Landscapes of Meghalaya’ has been included in the @UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list; he further said, 

''I congratulate all community members and stakeholders in this ongoing journey,”

There are roughly about   100   living Root Bridges (grown between 10 to 15 years across, 70 villages in Meghalaya highlighting the  harmony between the man and the nature.  North-east India has the highest vegetation cover in India and includes 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world, indicating the importance of the region in terms of its greenery, bio-diversity  and climate-change sensitivity. The state of Meghalaya, often referred to as an ''abode of clouds'' has dense forests and and the root bridges are  known to occur in the West and East Jaintia Hills districts. They evolved through sustained human interaction in unison with environment. 

Song writer Chris Brown's note.

 Above image: A post on Instagram by American singer and song writer Chris Brown

Lots of travelers visit the Jaintia hills to see the root bridges, however, the best and well-developed root bridges are present in Cherrapunji and Shillon. These places are known to receive the highest rain fall in the world. Recently the village of Mawsynram (81 km from Cherrapunji) in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya has taken over Cherrapunji and become the wettest place on earth. It receives 10000 mm of rain a year.

Last year, a National Convention on the root-bridges was held here where Scientists presented their works on  unique species of orchids, amphibians, and mammals  found on  root-bridges in Meghalaya at a convention held last year. 

Based on their research on 77 bridges over three expeditions in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya during 2015, 2016 and 2017,  German scientists  made a suggestion that  that ''the bridges could  be considered a reference point for future botanical architecture projects in urban contexts''.

In this fast-phased world, the world forums on environmental protection, biodiversity, etc., the topics   have become more of a charade than of a serious matter.  The symbiotic relationship between man and nature is on the decline for so many reasons. Giving a UNESCO  World Heritage Site Tag  to the  Meghalaya's Jing kieng Jri, is a piece of good news. They are more often called the ''Living Root Bridge  of Cultural Landscapes of Meghalaya.'' Such a recognition by the world body will stand as an example to other countries and showcase them how to  maintain  right balance between economy and growth on one hand and ecology on the other through resilience and sensitivity.  Surely Meghalaya's Jingkieng Jri   serves as as a role model of human- environment symbiotic  relationship. 

The state government had worked hard for years to get the prestigious tag from the UNESCO.  The National Convention on Community and Science based Conservation Research and Development of Jingkieng Jri  and the state government  collectively appealed to the world body for its recognition of the aerial roots of Meghalaya. 

 The living root bridges, an outcome of interaction between human and  environment,  support countless endangered flora and and fauna. Such brides are the result of human endeavor using nature's bounty and  age-old traditional  methods by  the local tribal communities. The various  specialists from the central government agencies particularly, zoological and botanical surveys visited this place and  reported the presence of  new fauna  -  orchids, amphibians, and mammals never reported anywhere in the country. The highlight is they support rich flora and fauna that are critically in danger.

Deep-rooted in the communities of  this part of the state is  the preservation of  the ''sacred groves' known as 'Law Kyntang' and it has been around for a long time. It is  this tradition-bound customary practice that makes the people conserve and respect    aerial root bridges in the forests. It is this nature that gives us every thing to get our life going -  food to medicine to clean air free from particulates for healthy living. As for the bridges it is a low-cost and sustainable way to get connected with  remote mountain villages scattered across the steep terrain intersected by turbulent streams and flash flooding.

Invariably many villages in Meghalaya, lack  formal sanitation infrastructure, however they never fail to safeguard their surrounding. This state is called God's own garden.  Here the Khasi's respect for nature comes into play. Waste  collected in bamboo receptacles located all over the village, is then recycled into fertilizer and used for agriculture, their primary occupation. Plastics are repurposed, and villagers sweep lanes and public spaces daily.

Taking the cue from this Mawlynnong the cleanest village in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the community as a model for the rest of the country.