The Amazing Story of the Forest Man of India

“Majuli Island” by Kalai Sukanta CC BY 2.0

“Majuli Island” by Kalai Sukanta CC BY 2.0

Jadav Payeng decided to save Majuli island. On the first day he planted 20 bamboo seedlings; today he is known as the “Forest Man of India”.

The journey of growth starts with planting a seed. The seed must fight all odds in order to germinate and become a tree. A tree of hope, born out of desire and inspiration.

Jadav “Molai” Payeng is a cowherd from Aruna Chapori village in Majuli district, Assam. Jorhat is a small town of hardworking people, a few kilometres north of which lies one of the largest rivers in India; the Brahmaputra. Within the great river is Majuli, the world’s largest river island, which has been receding due to soil erosion for the last few decades.

In 1979, many snakes were washed to the shore due to flooding and during the summer of the same year, numerous were found dead on account of the excessive heat. Jadav, who was 16 at the time, realized humans could perish too.

Jadav took an initiative to save Majuli. He decided to plant 20 bamboo seedlings in dry sand. It took a lot of effort to cultivate, but he hoped that one day the trees would sprout. That they would grow tall, bear fruits and attract birds. With this spirit he started to plant different kinds of trees.

Jadav is now an environmental activist and forestry worker. He was given the title of “the forest man of India” by the country’s former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

His endeavour resulted in a 1360-acre forest called “Molai Sanctuary”. Larger than Central Park in New York, Jadav’s forest is rich in flora and fauna. It is home to royal Bengali tigers, rhinos, deer, vultures and is in the migratory route of over 100 elephants. It took Payeng 30 years for his effort to become recognised. In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious “Padma Shri” national award. People from all across the globe now visit the forest, amazed at the results of the work of one extraordinary man from humble backgrounds.

Jadav is a true devotee of Mother Nature and promises to keep planting until his last breath. He is always found smiling and joyful, and refers to himself as the happiest of men. He believes the education system should make each student plant two trees, teaching them to indirectly produce their own oxygen. His wish is for everybody to start making the planet greener and more beautiful to live in.

Jadav is a true inspiration in this age of globalization, where most people seem too busy to consider nature and sustainability. Rising industrialization has lead us towards increased pollution, creating a negative impact on the world’s ecosystem.

The vow to protect Nature is limited to meetings and documents.  Whilst individuals and organizations – who make little effort to protect nature – have remained busy acquiring the glitters of globalization, Jadav single-handedly took action to protect Nature.

As the trees grew, it became difficult for him to protect his forest from men who wanted to destroy it for economic gains, but he never gave up.

Solutions are what we seek and consistency is what we need, in order to protect Nature from ourselves. Jadav can serve as inspiration, to paint the world green. If one person’s actions can result in such a beautiful outcome, what could the world become if we all followed Payeng’s footsteps?

Planting trees is economically viable and it provides benefits for everybody. Through reforestation, difficulties such as soil erosion and other calamities occurring in various parts of the world could be prevented.