This inspiring news comes to us from Assam, India.
This story goes back almost three decades. Then a teenager, after noticing the demise of a large number of reptiles due to inadequate tree cover, began planting bamboos in an area that was previously washed away by floods. Cut to today, and the very same land is a 1360 acre jungle and bears the name of Molai Forest, in honor of the man who created it.
This forest is now home to Indian Rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, over 100 odd deer and rabbits, along with apes, and many different varieties of birds like a large number of vultures. Of trees, there are several thousand, making it a fertile ground for a herd of 100 elephants to visit it every year. The elephants stay for about 6 months and many of them have given birth in this forest.
PayengMolai was all of 16 years old when the floods hit Assam and he observed that the flow of migratory birds was steadily declining and the snakes were also disappearing in large numbers. This phenomenon disturbed Molai. When he talked to the village elders about this problem they told him that because there was a decline in forest cover and deforestation, the animals were losing their homes. The only solution was to build new forests for the animals.
Payeng also alerted the forest department and they advised him to plant the trees himself. This Payeng actually did. He sought out a riverine island on the banks of the Brahmaputra River and started to plant the saplings. Every day for three decades, Payeng visited the island and kept planting saplings.
The next year, in 1980 Payeng started to work with the social forestry division of Golaghat district where there was a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at ArunaChapori which was 5km away from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district. Payeng happened to be one of the laborers who worked on the project for 5 long years. After the completion of the project, he chose to stay back. His aim was to look after the plants and to plant more trees. He was highly successful in this endeavor.
Payeng belongs to the Mishing tribe in Assam. He stays in a small hut in the forest with his wife and 3 children. There are cattle and buffalo on the farm and selling their milk is Payeng’s only source of income.
For his achievements, Payeng was honored at a public function at Jawaharlal Nehru University for his remarkable achievement. He was also called the “Forest Man of India” by JNU vice-chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory.
Image source: The Weekend Leader