Jadav "Molai" Payeng , ‘Forest Man Of India’, born in Assam (1963) is truly a source of inspiration. This man has single-handedly created a thriving, 550 hectare forest from a 'barren' sandbar in the middle of the river Brahmaputra of Assam.
Payeng belongs to the Mishing tribe and lives in a small hut in the forest along with his wife Binita, 2 sons and a daughter. He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood.
Majuli is the world’s largest river island. Since 1917 Majuli has lost over half its land mass to erosion and rate of erosion has recently accelerated. Scientists had announced that Majuli Island would be completely gone by 15-20 years.
In 1979, floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. Payeng who was just 16 at that time, saw a large number of dead snakes. Those snakes died due to extensive heat as there were no trees in that sandbar. Seeing these dead snakes, he contacted the forest department and ask them to grow trees there. The forest department told him that nothing could be grown there and told him to try growing some Bamboos. It was then when he planted some 15-20 Bamboo seedlings and started working on that sandbar in order to change the barren area into a forest. And now that sandbar has been converted into a huge forest.
Since 1979 Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. His forest is larger than Central Park NYC (341 hectares). His forest has transformed what was once a barren wasteland, into a lush oasis. This place is full of trees Jadhav has planted them himself. In beginning he found planting trees very difficult and time consuming but later it became much easier for him as he started getting seeds from trees themselves.
In Mumbai the former President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam gave him the title ‘Forest Man Of India’.
In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
Journey for Jadhav was never easy even after trees were grown, it became difficult for him to protect trees, as biggest threat to the trees are men themselves. It was very difficult to protect trees from men as they would destroy tree and sell its wood for economic gain.
Three decades before when he started planting trees no one had idea that it would give birth to entire forest. The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, named after him, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and elephants and over 100 deer and rabbits. Molai forest is also home to apes 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 100-115 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.
Jadhav has suggested many ideas to save Majuli but till now no one has adopted them. He says, if you develop the coconut industry it will be very beneficial. I would request ministry of agriculture to do that. Coconut trees are always straight and they help prevent erosion if planted densely enough. Jadhav says planting coconut trees will prevent erosion and boost Indian economy too and will also help in fighting the climate change. It will take 5 years to get results in Majuli and in other areas it will take 7 years.
He says he will continue planting trees till his last breath, he also suggest people that cutting trees would give them nothing. The locals wanted to cut down the forest as their homes have been destroyed by pachyderms. But he said to kill him before cutting his trees.
Payeng has shown the example that if one person, at his own efforts can do this type of work which is good for us, our country and our environment, then why not others? What Payeng doing is simply following the rule of nature by growing more trees. As a child, everyone study about what will happen if deforestation(cutting the trees) takes place, but people don’t hesitate even once before cutting the trees. Cutting a tree may take about 4-5 minutes but growing a tree takes 4-5 years. Growing a tree is not a simple task. We have to make sure that it gets sufficient water and sunlight and we should also make sure that animals does not eat it while it is growing. One can imagine how much hard work Payeng did to make a safe place for Flora and Fauna. Jadav Payeng is truly an inspirational man. If everyone can give atleast 1% of what Payeng did, it would be a huge step to save the environment and the climatic conditions of the country will be well balanced.