Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

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Context: A new research investigates the living root bridges structures and proposes to integrate them in modern architecture around the world, and potentially help make cities more environment-friendly.

Relevance:
Prelims:Current events of national and international importance
Mains: GS III-

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Living root bridges:

  • The jing kieng jri or living root bridges — aerial bridges built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree — have been serving as connectors for generations in Meghalaya.
  • Spanning between 15 and 250 feet and built over centuries, the living roots bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers.
  • They are made by the Khasi and Jaintia peoples of the mountainous terrain along the southern part of the Shillong Plateau. Root bridges have also been observed in the Indian state of Nagaland.

                                   

 Making of a root bridge:

  • A root bridge uses traditional tribal knowledge to train roots of the Indian rubber tree, found in abundance in the area, to grow laterally across a stream bed, resulting in a living bridge of roots.
  • These bridges can be redefined as ecosystems as the process begins with placing of young pliable aerial roots growing from Ficus elastica (India rubber) trees in hollowed out Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks.
  • These provide essential nutrition and protection from the weather, and also perform as aerial root guidance systems.
  • Over time, as the aerial roots increase in strength and thickness, the Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks are no longer required.

Why Ficus elastica?

  • Ficus elastica is conducive to the growth of bridges because of its very nature.
  • There are three main properties: they are elastic, the roots easily combine and the plants grow in rough, rocky soils.

Architectural scope:

  • Researchers from Germany investigated 77 bridges over three expeditions in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya during 2015, 2016 and 2017.
  • The study suggests that the bridges can be considered a reference point for future botanical architecture projects in urban contexts.
  • The traditional techniques of the Khasi people can promote the further development of modern architecture.                                         



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