Jadav Payeng: One man makes a difference by planting a forest in India

Jadav Payeng has single-handedly been planting hundreds of trees on an Indian island threatened by erosion. He started in 1979 and today he has planted a forest larger than New York’s Central Park.

The native Majuli islander has dedicated his life to planting trees on the island, creating a forest that was left a barren wasteland after deforestation.

Majuli Island, nestled in Northeast India next to the Brahmaputra River, is a giant sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on Earth, home to some 150,000 people. It is now home to the 1,360 acre Molai Forest, one of the most unusual woodlands in the world for the fact that it was planted by a single man.

While home to such a large population, rapidly increasing erosion over the last 100 years has reduced the land mass of Majuli Island to less than half.

Jadav Payeng’s work has been credited with significantly fortifying the island, while providing a habitat for several endangered animals which have returned to the area – a herd of over 100 elephants, Bengal tigers, and a species of vulture that hasn’t been seen on the island in over 40 years.

In this short documentary film, Forest Man tells the story of Jadav Payeng, of the Mishing tribe, narrated by wildlife photographer and his close friend, Jitu Kalita.

Directed by William Douglas McMaster, Forest Man won Best Documentary for the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014.

Jadav Payeng, who has been hailed the “Forest Man of India”, has been planting trees since he was a teenager. Now in his 50s, he is still “amazed” at the difference one man can make.

He said: “I never thought that my small initiative would make such a difference one day.”

Thanks to Jadav Payeng’s nurture and love, Molai Forest is currently home to a diverse range of trees which include bamboos, baheda, teak, gambhari, custard apple, star fruit, gulmohur, devil’s tree, tamarind, mulberry, mango, jackfruit, plum, peach and banyan, as well as elephant grass and medicinal plants.

The forester is persistent and consistent in his efforts to create a “Green India”, recommending that Environmental Sciences be made a mandatory subject in schools throughout the country. “If every schoolchild is given the responsibility to grow two trees, it will surely lead to a Green India,” Jadav Payeng said.

Jadav Payeng has been awarded several awards for his forestry and environmental work, yet the awards are neither here nor there to the Majuli native unless people take action to make a “Green India” and a green world. “My aim has always been to do good for the country. Even the President of India has to do something for the earth; otherwise, there will be nobody left, nothing,” he said.

The environmentalist has put the money from the awards he has been given towards the forest. He has now recruited four labourers for planting, and is considering another 5,000-acre area.

Jadav Payeng

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, music and arts. Rosalind also works as a counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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