Is the living-root-bridge on the verge of death?


Far from the madding crowd, away from the mental chaos is a place called Nongriat in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya. One of the few places, probably in the world, that offers a perfect balance of serene atmosphere, natural ecosystem, a traditional and a simple lifestyle and a very basic infrastructure.

With more than 3500 steps to tread down, the place is actually worth the effort 

With more than 3500 steps separating the comparatively well-connected Tyrna to an open secret wanderlust, Nongriat, if you are one that loves hiking and trekking then this is the place to go.

The dilapidated hanging bridge en-route to Nongriat, seemingly fixed by the villagers with wires and bamboo sticks which is in dire need of attention and reconstruction 

Two to three hours of treading down more than 3500 steps leads you to a sight to behold: 'The Double-Decker Root Bridge'.

The existence of this place gained steady momentum after the year 2000 when it was first featured in international television programmes like The Human Planet Series filmed in 2008 by BBC Wales and a documentary by Osamu Monden in June 2004 for Asahi TV in Japan.

Since then, this delicate and well-preserved, initially a secret place has begun to invite tourists from all over the world, leaving every visitor bewitched by its unique natural beauty.

A sight to behold! The double-Decker Root Bridge in all its entirety

However, amidst the wonder and the lust for beauty, it is, but a matter of concern to note that although the advent of tourism has contributed in a great way to popularizing the place thereby bringing in the much-needed capital, it may do good to consider the disadvantages of the same.

On a personal note, the last time I visited Nongriat in the month of January this year, my journalistic bent of mind was curious enough to note that the mini iron bridges or more so, the three hanging bridges were seen to be in dire need of reconstruction, not to encourage more tourist influx but to ensure the safety and convenience of those few hardworking villagers who walk all the way from Nongriat to Tyrna (covering 3 hanging bridges and more than 3500 steps) almost every single day as part of their day-to-day activity.

The crystal clear water beneath the Double-Decker Root Bridge are at greater risk of pollution if tourist influx remain uncontrolled

Further, more tourists invites greater populace and hence higher risk of pollution. The villagers, though very politely regulatory and hospitably restricted in their approach to preserve the beautiful place, cannot always keep a vigil on the tourist's activities. Hence the need for a regulatory order in the form of sign boards in and around the place.

The picturesque view at the Nongriat Root Bridge. Not  something worth trading!

With greater tourist advent, the chances of the place, or more so, the bridge getting deteriorated increases manifold, hence the need to preserve this place arises. The only possible way to ensure this is to be able to get this place into the list of World Heritage Sites. It might sound funny for now, or maybe even insane, but we must realize that "Beauty is to be seen and not to be touched" for the one that admires beauty does so from within his heart.

I am sure we would not want our future generations to admire this unique natural formation only in photographs or documentaries in the long run. So let's take a stand for what is dutifully ours and let's preserve this exotic place with all due respect to Mother Nature.

By Shweta Raj Kanwar