Created 550 hectares of forest single-handedly on barren land in Assam
A 16-year-old young tribal boy, Jadav Payeng was deeply hurt to see hundreds of dead snakes lying on the sandbar in the heat after being washed away by the Brahmaputra river floods during monsoon at Majuli, the world’s largest river island in Kokilamukh of Jorhat District, Assam.
He wondered what it would look like if the same happened to humans and asked the tribal people in a nearby village what he could do? They told him to plant trees, particularly bamboo since they could withstand harsh conditions and gave him 25 saplings and some seeds.
What Jadav did on that hot day, driven by something that tugged at his heart and scared him in equal measure, turned out into 550 hectares of forest, home to 120 species of birds, elephants, rhinos and tigers, etc and won him national and international recognition.
The power of a single human being
His compassion for each living being on the earth, coupled with years of dedication and hard work, shows how even ONE SINGLE INDIVIDUAL can turn around the situation. He left his studies, married late and worked tirelessly and single-handedly for 30 years to turn the barren land into a lush green forest, officially named Molai forest, after his nickname Mola.
Jadav was conferred the title “The Forest Man” by the Government of India on World Health Day 2010. In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India. He also received the 128th Commonwealth Points of Light Award from the Queen of England in March 2020 for his unending efforts to promote aforestation.
Jadav, however, refuses to take the credit. “The birds, cows, deer, wind, water and elephants have helped me. People want to know my story. I tell them I just plant trees, and I would like all of you to do so. Trees are the lifeline of the forest, they don’t just give us shade and oxygen, they feed birds and animals and balance our ecosystem. If there is no life left, what is the use of all the advancements we have made?”
The words of wisdom
After numerous visits to speak at schools and colleges, Jadav is dismayed that World Earth Day has been celebrated in the same manner for the past 30 years. Explaining how it takes five years of tender love and care for a sapling to turn into a tree, he says, “It will be a beautiful thing if a child is taught to plant a sapling or a seed when he is initiated in school and as he grows up, he or she is taught to take care of it and be responsible for it. If this had been done 30 years back by all of us, would global warming and climate change have dared to touch us?”.
The human greed
He lives in a small hut in the forest with his wife and 3 children and for his livelihood, he sells cattle and buffalo milk, which is his only source of income. In an interview in the year 2012, he revealed that he has lost around 100 of his cows and buffaloes to the tigers in the forest, but blames the people who carry out large scale encroachment and destruction of forests as the root cause of the plight of wild animals.
One threat which he deals with every day, – not nature but MAN. Poachers have an eye on his forest and its inhabitants, however, the local Forest Department authorities are providing him with enough protection and support for the same. There is this one man who has single-handedly given life to several hundreds of living beings and then there are men who, for their personal greed, are poaching them.
There are several documentaries being made on him, also a film with famous film star Rana Daggubati as Jadav and children’s book and also he finds a place in US school curriculum. He has been invited by a Mexican non-profit organization to guide them to raise more trees in Mexico.
Despite all this, Jadav does not see himself as a celebrity, nor does he care about the laurels he has earned. ‘Reading about me is not enough. Do what I do. I want school teachers to follow up on my chapter with tree-planting sessions, and to teach children to nurture and grow them with love and care,” says the humble and true environmentalist Jadav.
Checkout the article in our magazine from here