Located in one of the wettest areas in the world, in the lush, green jungles of Meghalaya, India, people don’t build bridges—they grow them.
During the monsoon season, the rivers and streams that crisscross the landscape become strong, torrential rivers, impossible to cross on foot. So the villagers use bridges grown by guiding the roots of a rubber fig tree through hollow betel tree trunks across a river until it the roots take hold on the other side.
The whole process can take 15 to 20 years to complete a bridge, but unlike conventional constructed bridges, the root bridges only grow stronger with time. Because they’re made with living roots, the bridge is naturally self-renewing and self-sustaining, never requiring major maintenance or repairs. The useful life of one of these living bridges is thought to be 500-600 years.
One of the most famous living root bridges is the Umshiang double-decker bridge, which is more than 180 years old.
Locals remain dedicated to keeping these living bridges alive, even adding a third level to the double-decker bridge in hopes of attracting more tourists. However, in the past decades, builders have been using steel rope to construct modern bridges, creating shorter alternative travel routes for locals.