Planning to visit the double-decker living root bridge in Nongriat? Let me warn you: it’s not worth it anymore!
I remember the last time I visited Nongriat, back in 2015, I stayed there for a week. Every morning, I would walk to the living root-bridge and spend my day there relaxing and reading a book. If I get a little bored and feel alone, I would take a dip in the surrounding fresh-water pools and a group of fish would come to meet me, biting the dead skin off my body. Back then, there were no restrictions to enjoy this man-made wonder. You could spend the entire day sitting on the living double-decker root-bridge if you like. The entry fee was moreover 20 Rupees for a day (or free for those staying in Nongriat).
5-years later, mass-tourism has changed it all. Now, bathing in the pools is strictly prohibited. Walking the double-decker root-bridge in a group of more than 5 people isn’t allowed. There is moreover a bar of 2-minute-time if someone wants to stand on the living root-bridge and take a selfie.
And honestly, the restrictions are quite valid. If you’ll compare the-then picture of the double-decker root-bridge with that of today, you will see how mass-tourism and wave upon waves of tourists that visit Nongriat have almost killed its only charm. The double-decker root-bridge, that was known as the man-made wonder is slowly dying!
Group Tours Are to Be Blamed
So, this time as I revisited Nongriat and saw the wooden logs supporting the root-bridge, I entered a moment of self-questioning. I blamed myself for putting Nongriat on world map five years ago. “If I, and the others, who wrote and promoted Nongriat hadn’t done so, this place would still be the same” I remember questioning myself.
But I think it’s not me and those others who are promoting places are to be blamed, but some tour companies are who give no consideration to sustainable-tourism and focus only on selling. I mean if I talk about myself, I have always travelled and advised people to travel solo, travel responsibly, and follow minimalism.
Tourism cannot be a tool of destruction if done the right way, and we have countries like Norway and Switzerland, & Indian states like Sikkim validating the statement.
And then, it’s not always the tour companies that are to be blamed, sometimes we are responsible at an individual level too. Just like a ship would sink if you put extra load on it, a tourism destination will wreak havoc too if we won’t filter out the traffic and let it overpopulate.
The Story of Nongriat
When I first visited Nongriat, in 2015, it had a total of 2 homestays: one of them was run by the Tourism of Meghalaya and the other was run by a local family.
In a village with less than 12 houses, the two homestays – having a total capacity for 10 tourists – kept the entire equation of local vs foreigners balanced. 5 years later, Nongriat gets nearly 10 homestays/guest-houses, with total occupancy of nearly 30 tourists – forcing the cute little town of Nongriat choke to death. Having no bar set on tourism influx has led to Nongriat’s cultural and natural destruction.
Where last time I found local families in Nongriat too welcoming and heart-warming to be true, this time they were too busy to even speak to. Kids were busy selling beetle-nuts and fake ‘natural honey’. The root-bridge was counting its last few days!
There are many elements of over-tourism and just as many parties to be blamed for it. Having said that, we cannot just point fingers and blame others but do our best to not be a part of it. Here’s an article I have written about tackling the issue better…
It’s Time We Stop Mass Tourism Change Our World For Worse (currently writing te article)
As a traveller over tourism can ruin the experience of a new destination. As a local, it can be a nuisance. But neither of them is affected!