SHILLONG, Feb 27 - The famed living root bridges of Meghalaya has been nominated by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) for this year�s award as one of the pioneer innovations of the country.
If the living root bridges manage to bag the award by the President of India on March 4, this would be the first such recognition for these bio-engineering wonders of the State. There are several other innovations that are selected each year and awarded at the Rastrapati Bhavan.
The living root bridges are built by connecting local rubber tree (Ficus elastica) roots over betel-nut tree trunks, till they fasten to become bridges over gushing streams. These bridges scattered all over Sohra (Cherrapunjee) have been live-savers for remote villagers.
One of the most well known living root bridge is the Umshiang double-decker bridge in the village of bee-keepers in Nongthymmai near Nongriat. It is 30 metre long and can take the load of 50 people at a time, villagers claim.
Another such bridge, near Laitkynsew village, the Umnnoi living Root Bridge is 53 ft long and is locally known as �Jingkieng Deingjri� meaning �bridge of the rubber tree.� It is said that the bridge is more than 100 year-old.
Wankit Kupar Swer, Manager, State Basin Development Authority (BDA), said, a team from NIF visited the State last year and saw for themselves the living root bridges that are found in the southern slopes of the State in Khasi-Jaintia Hills and nominated these bridges for this year�s award.
Swer said the NIF team were impressed with what they saw and nominated these bridges for the award as recognition would help preservation and raising awareness on these bridges. The BDA, in the meantime, is in the process of identifying the communities who build these bridges. �We are still in the process of identifying the communities who build these bridges across the State,� Swer added.
Each year thousands of tourists visit these bridges and some are under threat of damage. �These are not just living root bridges but an entire ecosystem,� Swer said.