He was 16 when the flood hit Assam, and Payeng observed that the flow of migratory birds was gradually declining to the forest areas and wetlands near his home and snakes were disappearing in large numbers. This disturbed him.
“I asked my elders, what would they do if all of us die one day, like these snakes. They just laughed and smirked but I knew I had to make the planet greener,” he says.
His village elders told him that with decline in forest cover and deforestation, animals lost their homes. The solution was to build new homes or forests for the animals, they said
(Almost three decades ago, a teenager, after noticing the deaths of a large number of reptiles due to a lack of a tree cover, started planting Bamboo in an area that had been washed away by floods. Today, that same land hosts 1,360 acres of Jungle called Molai Forest, named after Jadav “Molai” Payeng, the man who made this possible single handedly!)
He alerted the forest department but they asked him to plant trees himself (which he actually did). He located a riverine island, on the banks of River Brahmaputra, and began to plant the saplings. Payeng visited the island and planted a few saplings every day for three decades.
Watering the growing area of plants posed a problem. He could not draw water from the river and water all the growing plants, as the area proved to be vast for one man.
He built a bamboo platform on the top of each sapling and placed earthen pots with small holes in them. The water would gradually drip on the plants below and water them through the week until the pots were drained of water.
That forest is now home to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, over 100 deer and rabbits besides apes and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
Isn’t it amazing to see the willpower of this man who fought alone and won the battle single-handedly? Where we don’t hesitate to cut trees for our luxuries, he has sacrificed all the worldly pleasures to save the environment and the eco-system. The country needs more such superheroes who are trying to make the Earth a better place to live for one and all.
Payeng was honoured at a public function arranged by the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University on 22nd April, 2012 for his remarkable achievement.
JNU vice-chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory named Jadav Payeng as “Forest Man of India”. In the month of October 2013, he was honoured at the Indian Institute of Forest Management during their annual event ‘Coalescence’.
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