Cherrapunji Root Bridges

06 Jan

Cherrapunji, India has a problem with rainfall. The winter is dry, very dry, and most of the plants have had to adapt to drought-like conditions. But the rest of the year more than makes up for it. Nearly forty feet of rain fall on Cherrapunji every year, making it the second wettest place on Earth – only it’s neighboring state Mawsynram has a higher average downpour. The constant rain makes Cherrapunji’s mountain streams turn from creekbeds to raging torrents every year.

These hillsides are covered in life adapted to this constant stress, including it’s people. The War-Khasis are the residents here, a matrilineal set of tribes. Agriculture is hard due to constant erosion. Travel is difficult too – anyone who’s had to cross a strong river knows how dangerous it can be. The rivers are a constant barrier. But instead of giving up or relying on expensive artificial bridges of steel and concrete, the War-Khasis have found a unique solution.

As you can see in the video, one of the local trees, Ficus elastica, anchors itself against the force of the rivers with hundreds of strong, grasping roots. It’s these roots than the War-Khasis use to create their bridges, turning trees into highways. The bridges are immensely strong, easily taking the weight of dozens of people and they only get stronger every year. One particular tree even supports a double-decker bridge.

The bridges seem to have become an emblem of the War-Khasis, ensuring survival of both the people and their culture.

Sources: AtlasObscura

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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Anthropology, Natural History


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