Very little is known about northeast India's extraordinary living root bridges. Up to 500-years-old and 150-feet-long, these manmade jungle structures are created by manipulating the malleable roots of young Indian Rubber Trees, according to Patrick Rogers of the Living Root Bridge Project. While we know they are engineered by the War Khasi and War Jaintia people of Meghalaya state, nobody knows much about their origin, geographic span, when they were first conceived or by whom. Or how many there are. Rogers aims to fix that - before they disappear.
“My hope is that this will both spread awareness of the phenomenon so that the people of the region may further benefit from it, and also contribute to its preservation for future generations,” Rogers wrote of his goal to trek through northeast India’s thick jungle to document the dimensions and location of as many existing living root bridges, ladders and observation platforms he can find. He intends to rely on skills gathered during a one-month-long solo expedition in 2015 to negotiate the terrain and communicate with local communities. He explains why the stakes are so high on his gofundme campaign.
“Sadly, many living root bridges are under threat of being destroyed by a number of factors, including arson, floods, negligence, and local villages simply deciding to remove them and replace them with less exceptional steel bridges,” he wrote.
“While the few living root bridges that have become famous will almost certainly survive, these are only a shockingly tiny portion of the phenomenon as a whole. Most of the living root bridges have already been destroyed, and most of the rest may be soon to follow, while the practice itself, perhaps more important than any single bridge, is well on its way to fading out.”
Patrick told Inhabitat the project is making progress. In addition to lining up collaborators, he has learned of several living root bridges that have yet to be documented. “Also, I now have the support of the person who began promoting the living root bridges back in 2004, and has since then been their main proponent,” he said. “He is proposing getting in touch with the state government regarding the project, which could be a fairly major step towards raising awareness of the phenomenon, at least in Northeast India.”
Rogers is volunteering to locate, map, measure and photograph the living bridges so that ultimately the local communities can benefit from the attention they have shown to garner in other parts of the region. This information would be collated in a blog and no doubt grow and spread – quite like the bridges themselves, which sometimes soar dozens of feet off the ground and represent a unique cultural and natural heritage that we think is worth saving.
Lead image via Wikimedia, others via Patrick Rogers