To save his island home from erosion, Jadav Payeng, “The Forest Man of India,” has planted tens of thousands of trees over the course of nearly 40 years, creating a forest larger than Central Park.
One man planting trees every day for decades has created a lush forest that is now home to tigers
One man has made it his life’s mission to help save the world’s largest river island, Majuli, from erosion by planting trees. Over the past almost 40 years, Jadav Payeng, known as the “Forest Man of India”, has turned a barren sandbar on the Bramhaputra river into a forest larger than New York’s Central Park.
Payeng began in 1979 by planting 20 saplings when he was just 16 years old
Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng is a Mishing tribe environmental activist and forestry worker from Jorhat, in Assam, India. Over the course of almost 40 years, he has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra, turning it into a forest reserve.
The forest, named Molai forest after him, is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, and encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres/550 hectares — that’s a larger area than New York Central Park. In 2015, Payeng was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, to go with many more awards and accolades bestowed upon him.
In 1979, Payeng, then just 16, encountered a large number of snakes that had died due to excessive heat after floods washed them onto the tree-less sandbar. That is when he planted around 20 bamboo seedlings on the sandbar. He started working on the forest in 1979 when the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori situated at a distance of 5 km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district.
“Molai” was one of the labourers who worked in that project which was completed after five years, however he chose to stay back after the completion of the project even after other workers left. He not only looked after the plants, but continued to plant more trees on his own, in an effort to transform the area into a forest. Almost 40 years later and he’s still there, planting, every day.
Molai forest is now home Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, deer, monkeys and a variety of birds
The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits. Molai forest is also home to monkeys and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
There are several thousand trees, including valcol, arjun (Terminalia arjuna), ejar (Lagerstroemia speciosa), goldmohur (Delonix regia), koroi (Albizia procera), moj (Archidendron bigeminum) and himolu (Bombax ceiba). Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares.
A herd of around 100 elephants regularly visits the forest every year and generally stay for around six months. They have given birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent years.
Molai’s efforts became known to the authorities in 2008, when forest department officials went to the area in search of a herd of 115 elephants that had retreated into the forest after damaging property in the village of Aruna Chapori, which is about 1.5 km from the forest. The officials were surprised to see such a large and dense forest and since then the department has regularly visited the site.
Jadav Payeng belongs to a tribe called "Mishing" in Assam, India. He lives in a small hut in the forest. Binita, his wife, and his 3 children (two sons and a daughter) accompany him. He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood, which is his only source of income.
In an interview from 2012, he revealed that he has lost around 100 of his cows and buffaloes to the tigers in the forest, but blames the people who carry out large scale encroachment and destruction of forests as the root cause of the plight of wild animals.
Check out our recent article on a man growing a forest singlehandedly in Indonesia. Watch below, Forest Man, the award winning short film.
How to Choose Where to Plant Trees — 6 Steps (With Pictures)
Planting trees near your home has many advantages, and one of the most important is to provide shade from the sun. When placed in the right spots, trees can help cool your home, which helps lower utility costs, and they can protect your home from nature's other elements, including rain and wind. Another advantage of larger trees could be to provide a sound barrier if you live in an area that's near traffic or other disturbing noises. No matter what your needs, you will need to know how to choose where to plant trees in order to reap the most benefits.