The Place Where Bridges Are Grown Instead of Built

Do you know where the most sustainable foot bridges are? No, not in Germany, Costa Rica or the Nordic states, which are the greenest countries according to the GGEI (Global Green Economy Index) 2014, but in the Meghalaya state of northeastern India. We'll tell you why.

These suspension bridges are built with a form of tree shaping, and have a lifespan of 500-600 years.


Photo by Vanlal Tochhawng

The handmade footways are made from the roots of Ficus elastica trees, grown through betel tree trunks.

The Jinkieng Nongriat, also known as the Double Decker bridge near Nongriat, photo by Arshiya Urveeja Bose.

It takes about fifteen years to complete these architectural marvels with a span up to 100 ft (30 m).


Photo by Sandro Lacarbona

The founders of the method are the Khasi people, who speak the northernmost Austroasiatic language which was only oral before a Welsh Christian missionary named Thomas Jones arrived to the area in the early 1840s and recorded the Khasian language to Roman alphabet in 1842.


Photo by Seema Krishnakumar

They are growing stronger every year.


Photo by rajkumar1220

All of them can support the weight of fifty people at a time.


Photo by Roman Korzh

There is a really simple reason to build these instead of normal wooden bridges: this region is the wettest place on Earth, a village named Cherrapunjee received 9,300 mm (366 in) in a month in July 1861, and 26,461 mm (1,041.75 in) in a year between 1 August 1860 and July 31 1861. Just compare it with the average yearly precipitation of New York City, which is 1209 mm (47.6 in, based on data collected between 1981 and 2010).

It is unknown when construction of these bridges were started, but all were unknown until 1844, when the first written record by Lieutenant H. Yule has appeared in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.


Photo by Roman Korzh.

The Khasis still grow new bridges, so when the old ones are vanishing, there will be another spectacular and vivacious footways to get across in the next centuries.


Photo by Ashwin Mudigonda.


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