Meghalaya boy works to preserve living bridges

This wonderful news comes to us from Meghalaya, India.

In Meghalaya, the dense jungles of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills are home to some unique bridges that can seemingly last forever. These bridges are created by manipulating and weaving the roots of the rubber tree and they have sustained the War Khasi tribal community who live on the southern slopes of the hills that border Bangladesh.

These living bridges have been built for centuries and they link one place to another, over the streams, rivers and dense jungles. The bridges are also made from bamboo scaffolds and the hollowed out trunks of the areca nut trees. First scaffolding is made to form a framework of a bridge over the stream or the river crossing. Then the local people pull the roots of the rubber plant, manipulating the roots so that they entwine about the scaffolding frame. Over a time of 20-30 years, the roots of the existing bridges are guided until they can stand on their own; this gives rise to living bridges which naturally require monitoring and constant attention.

Morningstar Khongthaw is a 23-year-old school dropout who is the founder of the Living Bridge Foundation (LBF) which is a foundation dedicated to the preservation of the unique living bridges. He says that if proper care is taken, these bridges can last anywhere up to 500-600 years.

Morningstar is a native of Rangthylliang village in the Pynursla tehsil of the East Khasi Hills District. He calls himself a “Living Bridge Activist” and has been involved over the last 5 years in the maintenance and repair of living root bridges that have gone into disrepair and also building new bridges. Morningstar travels from one village to another, educating people about the values of this ancient skill and how to safeguard their heritage.

LBF is involved in various projects in Meghalaya, spreading awareness among the Khasi community about the value of preserving this extremely traditional art form and skill set. For Morningstar, it was an American traveler, Patrick Rodgers who encouraged his passion for living root bridges. Young Morningstar dropped out of school in 2016 and began to concentrate full time on his passion. Till date, LBF has 10 active members who have done a lot to inculcate awareness through programs and campaigns. Local villagers help Morningstar in his endeavors and together they have done a lot in looking after these wonderful living bridges.

Image Source: The Better India

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