Living roots bridges - Northeast, India

Natural architectural wonder, the living roots bridges of Meghalaya are a living evidence of the harmony in which human and nature can symbiotically co-exist.

Did you know these are handmade?

The local Khasis have harnessed the quality of the Indian rubber tree by channeling the direction in which their roots grow, thereby ‘growing’ the so-called living bridges to allow crossings throughout the year. Similar to the Banyan tree, the India rubber tree are tall forest trees buttressed by great spreading roots. These trees with powerful root system can withstand soil erosion in the swift-flowing waters and the local residents continue to twist, tie and weave these roots down to the river beds along which they grow to create these extraordinary bridges.

The Umshiang double-decker living roots bridge at Nongriat village, near Cherrapunjee, is a natural beauty born from such an instrumental interaction.

How enchanting was my hike?

My adventurous trek of 7000 steps to experience this spectacle was occasionally intercepted by wire bridges built over glistening cyan blue waters meandering across sizeable boulders.

Houses constructed on raised platforms amongst the wild green thicket contour the steps on either side. Smiling locals emerge from them, every now and then, as I progress closer to the bridge. Pit stops are strategically positioned and provide the much needed rest for my knobbly knees.

At last, I was greeted by a small cascading waterfall on one side whose gently gushing waters were framed by two levels of rubber roots on the other side.

Bird and insect calls built on the sounds of the stream.

The simplicity of this magnificence was overwhelming- one can easily lose themselves in it for hours!

What is also sadly lost is the serene charm due to the sudden influx of tourists to these wonders. We, us visitors, need to look beyond a selfie opportunity and take an interest in its sustainability and significance to the local community. The living roots bridges are in dire need of responsible tourism.

How can I be a responsible tourist?

Let’s begin with stuffing our pockets back with the candy wrappers after eating them, lugging back all our empty bottles to town where recycling facilities are better. The local communities have placed small bins by the trekking path for our convenience, but these bins have to be regularly emptied and this garbage has to be carried by the local people all the way back up to the town. Let’s be real, we’ve all witnessed trash being burned midway or thrown down the valleys, afterall who wants to walk 7000 steps everyday to clear our trash and earn pennies!

Just like charity, responsibility begins at home.

Trash is mostly generated by tourists so when you are travelling please be conscious about what you leave behind there. Tourism is an important source of income for these villagers but so is the existence of these bridges!

We connected with a local travel company, White Winged Journeys, which curates bespoke travel experiences in the North East of India.

Dhritiman Baroowa, the founder and promoter of responsible tourism enlists the services of local experts who enable him to create seasonal journeys that are authentic.

“As a travel company operating in an ecological and cultural hotspot we also understand our responsibilities towards the environment. Tourism has its consequences and our constant endeavour is to ensure that we try and limit them to the keep this beautiful region as pristine as possible. With a strong emphasis on protecting the environment, we as a company are committed to responsible tourism.”

It’s time we all connect and bridge the gap!

Trek experience: Sana Aejaz
Trek Images: Pawan More and Dhritiman Baroowa

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