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The Living Root bridge of Meghalaya in UNESCO's tentative list for World Heritage Site

Each living structure constitutes a unique site-specific response, where form and function have evolved through sustained human interaction with environment
Last Updated : 30 March 2022, 14:37 IST
Last Updated : 30 March 2022, 14:37 IST
Last Updated : 30 March 2022, 14:37 IST
Last Updated : 30 March 2022, 14:37 IST

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The Living Roots Bridge or the Jingkieng Jris, as they are locally called in Meghalaya has been included in the Unesco's tentative list for the coveted World Heritage Site status.

Informing this, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Tuesday tweeted, "Delighted to share that "Jingkieng Jri: Living Root Bridge Cultural Landscapes of Meghalaya" has been included in the @UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list. I congratulate all community members and stakeholders in this ongoing journey."

Meghalaya sees this as as a positive step towards getting the World Heritage Site status for which it has been pressing for long. A national convention on Community Science based Conservation and Development of Jingkieng Jri or Living Roots Bridges, organised in Meghalaya capital Shillong in December last year also stressed for the Unesco tag for better conservation and promotion for tourism purposes.

The details uploaded in the Unesco website says that villagers grow the living root-bridges by training the ‘ficus elastica’ tree on both sides of water bodies over a period of about 10 to 15 years where the roots form the bridge. There are about 100 known living root bridges spread across 72 villages in the state at present, it said.

"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. Facilitating connectivity and disaster resilience in more than 75 remote villages in and near Cherrapunji, the wettest region on Earth, the Living Root Bridge validate outstanding ingenuity and resilience of an ancient culture, where collective cooperation and reciprocity were the fundamental building blocks of life," it said.

Each living structure or Jingkieng jri constitutes a unique site-specific response, where form and function have evolved through sustained human interaction with environment. Functionally, each category plays a distinct role: bridges, ladders and steps provide a reliable mode of transport especially during Monsoon season; platforms and towers provide an opportunity for recreation and security; erosion and landslide prevention structures facilitate slope protection and soil stabilization. In addition to load-bearing structural use, India rubber trees have also been used for extracting caoutchouc (latex) for waterproofing and hunting, validating their special significance in Meghalaya.

Besides playing a critical socio-economic role within each village, Ficus-based Living structures also contribute to the ecology through forest and riparian restoration. The indigenous community, including traditional farmers and hunters, continue to use and nurture these structures, reinforcing the remarkable spirit of their ancestor, said the document.

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Published 30 March 2022, 14:36 IST

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