A surprising find was made by 16-year-old Jadav Payeng in Assam, India, in 1979: a number of dead snakes scattered around the sandbanks of Majuli Island in the Brahmaputra River. The creatures were destroyed by the island’s lack of shade after being driven from their previous locations by flooding.
Payeng was greatly moved by this horrible scene, and it motivated him to take action. He told NPR that when he first saw it, he “thought even we people will have to die this way in the heat.” “I was struck,” Payeng made the decision to devote his life to improving the river island right there and then.
He vowed to plant a seedling in its sandy soil every day, an amazing commitment that would lead to the creation of the lush 550-hectare Molai Forest. The island, which is covered in a wide variety of trees, has thrived and drawn a wide range of creatures, including elephants, rhinos, deer, wild boars, vultures, reptiles, and even Royal Bengal tigers. The trees that initially appeared on the island were bamboo trees, followed by cotton trees.
In addition to preserving the island’s scenery, Payeng’s afforestation effort has helped refill a vibrant ecosystem and save species. It had been connected to the mainland when Payeng was young. However, because of the sandy nature of its banks, erosion was a major concern. Nowadays, however, the trees have stabilized the soil, shielding the sandbars from the choppy river waves.
Payeng is currently hailed as the “Forest Man of India” for his unwavering commitment and outstanding environmental achievements. He yet maintains that he cannot claim exclusive responsibility. It’s not like I did it alone, he modestly remarks. “You only plant one or two trees; they must produce seeds. When they germinate, the wind understands how to plant them, as do the local birds, cows, elephants, and even the Brahmaputra River. The whole ecosystem is aware.
The “Forest Man of India,” Jadav Payeng, is pictured here.
Every day for nearly 40 years, Payeng planted a tree on the once-barren river island of Majuli.
His dedicated act singlehandedly transformed Majuli from a barren, sandy island…
…into a lush forest larger than Central Park!
“As long as it survives,” Payeng says of the Majuli Island forest, “I survive.”