The Living Bridges of India
Posted on December 15, 2010
Some of the greatest engineering feats ever accomplished date back to the ancient world. The enigmatic pyramids can certainly make their point, but so can these incredible bridges of northeastern India depicted below.
It is estimated that planning for these bridges took 10-15 years in many cases, and because they grown out of living tree roots, they are considered the most sustainable foot bridges in the world.
These structures are extremely robust, reach up to 100 feet in length and date back more than five centuries.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect about these bridges is the fact that in their own particular way, they are alive.
They require the harvesting of a few betel nuts to create and the credit for their development goes to a tribe in the hilly Khasi and Jaintia region of India, which is considered one of the wettest places on Earth.
“The War-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya, long ago noticed this tree and saw in its powerful roots an opportunity to easily cross the area’s many rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges,” claims the Atlas Obscura.
The Khasis had their own root-guidance system, which they developed by slicing the betel nut trunks down the middle and hollowing them. This would force the thin, amenable roots of the rubber tree to grow straight out. When they reached the other side of the river, they would take root in the soil of the bank. The living bridge over time was thus created.
These bridges are unbelievably strong and are known to support as many as 50 people crossing at one time.
At one point, the villagers wanted to modernize and tear the bridges down and build steel ones. A nearby resort owner talked them out of it.
Innovative sustainable design wins out in the end, proving that if it isn’t broken, why fix it?