Jadav Payeng, known as the Forest Man of India, spent 30 years of his life planting trees to save his island, creating a forest and restoring wildlife in it.
Jadav Payeng is better known as the Forest Man of India. He earned this name by spending 30 years of his life planting trees, creating a real man-made forest of 550 hectares. Thanks to this reforestation, wildlife has returned to the area. Incredibly, he did it all by himself. This is his story.
Molai Kathoni forest: A one-man-made forest
The Mulai Reserve is a forest on the Majuli Island in the Brahmaputra River near Kokilamukh in the Jorhat district in Assam, India. It has a total area of about 1,000 hectares and is under continuous threat due to the extensive soil erosion on its banks.
Majuli has shrunk over the past 70 years by more than half. There are concerns that it could be submerged within the next 20 years. To fight this, in 1980, the Assam Forestry Division of Golaghat district began a plan to reforest 200 hectares of the forest in one of the sandbars of the Brahmaputra river.
However, the program was sadly abandoned in 1983. After that, the forest was single-handedly attended by Jadav Payeng during the course of over 30 years. He began planting bamboo. Then, he continued planting other species. He wants to spread his Molai Forest to Bongoan of Majuli.
He planted and tended trees along a sandbar on the Majuli island. Majuli is the biggest river island in the world. The Molai forest now encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres/550 hectares of forest. The area can be compared to the size of 15 football stadiums together.
The Molai forest created by Jadav Payeng is largest than Central Park in New York City. Thanks to him, the Molai forest now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, reptiles, over 100 deers, and rabbits in addition to monkeys and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
There are several thousands of trees, including valcol, arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Pride of India (Lagerstroemia speciosa), royal poinciana (Delonix regia), silk trees (Albizia procera), moj (Archidendron bigeminum) and cotton trees (Bombax ceiba), among others. Bamboo alone covers an area of over 300 hectares.
The government only learned about Jadav's forest in 2008 when a herd of around 100 wild elephants strayed into it. Since then, they are regular visitors to the forest every year. They generally stay in the forest for around six months. The elephants have given birth to 10 calves in the forest.
In his honor, the Molai forest was named after Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng, the Indian environmental activist and forestry worker who tries to save the island where he lives by planting one tree every day.
Forest Man: Award-Winning Documentary Films
The Molai forest and Jadav Payeng have been the subject of a number of award-winning documentary films. In 2012, a locally made documentary film produced by Jitu Kalita, The Molai Forest, was screened at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Jitu Kalita, who lives near Jadav Payeng's house, has also been featured and given recognition on his work reporting the life and accomplishment of Jadav Payeng through his documentary film.
The Molai Forest was also featured in the 2013 documentary film Foresting life, directed by the Indian documentary filmmaker Aarti Shrivastava.
In 2013, William Douglas McMaster's documentary film Forest Man have pledged 8,327 U.S. dollars on a Kickstarter campaign for the post-production of this documentary film. Forest Man was shown at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Imagine how fast the global goal to fight climate change could advance if only there were more Jadav Payengs in the world. Anyone can make a difference planting one tree at a time. Those interested in planting trees to help the environment can contact the following organizations: