CM seeks World Heritage Site tag for living root bridges

SHILLONG, Dec 21: Meghalaya’s Jingkieng Jri (living root bridge) not only highlights the symbiotic relationship between nature and human culture to a global audience but also focuses on the need to adopt a balanced approach between economy and ecology, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said on Tuesday.
He was speaking at a national convention on Community and Science-based Conservation Research and Development of Jingkieng Jri here.
Highlighting the concept of ‘just transition’, Sangma laid emphasis on a transitional process that can conserve the environment and ensure livelihood to the primary force.
“We have been extensively working towards natural resource management where we are focusing on creation of livelihood out of the natural resources that we possess. So, we use them in a sustained manner and yet, create a parallel economy with more inclusive forms of livelihood, while keeping the ecology at the forefront,” he said.
“This national conclave on Jingkieng Jri focuses on just one part of the massive big picture on natural resource management that we are trying to bring about. We feel that the living root bridge conservation could be a lighthouse project which would bring attention to the need for NRM interventions to preserve the ecosystem while facilitating sustainable livelihood”, the CM added.
He lauded the communities for their support stating that their contributions will go a long way in achieving the long-term impact through the project and realise the overall NRM goals.
Pitching for a UNESCO World Heritage Site tag for the living root bridges, Sangma said, “It would be more about the larger message we will give to the world that the living root bridge is an ecosystem in itself, supporting many birds, animals, lichen, mushrooms, flowers, trees, serving its simple purpose while allowing the humans to cross over for a living.”
The process of making these bridges is an age-old craft, a living tradition among the locals. It is crucial to archive this wisdom of not only making, but more so, conserving the bridges and the related ecosystem, he said.
Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, Prof K Vijay Raghavan, scientists from all over the country, community representatives and members of the Living Root Bridge cooperative societies from across Khasi and Jaintia Hills attended the convention.
Prof Raghavan said the living root bridges, which highlight the socio-cultural, social and botanical links among people and nature, deserve the World Heritage Site tag due to the rich micro as well as the macro world associated with the Jingkieng Jri.
In his opening remarks, Sampath Kumar, CEO of Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, said the confluence of both scientists and people from the grassroots on one platform is a wonderful idea.
While the traditional knowledge of living root bridges is ancient, research on their ecosystem has become altogether more important to improve their conservation, he said.
The cooperative societies spoke about some initiatives they are undertaking towards preserving the living root bridges and the biodiversity in and around each living root bridge.
They said they are also preserving medicinal herbs, traditional games, handicraft activities, plantation of fruit seedlings etc.
Iora Dkhar, chairperson of the Syrwet u Barim Mariang Jingkieng Jri Cooperative Federation Ltd., spoke on the importance of cooperatives for bringing about collective action among communities to preserve the knowledge and skills that have evolved through generations.
The convention is a follow up of field visits undertaken by the scientists wherein they came across unique species of orchids, amphibians and mammals.
The scientists said the living root bridges are a house of several critically-endangered species of flora and fauna and therefore, a reason to be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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