Mr Jadav Payeng: “ The Forest Man of India”
Almost three decades ago, as many as five successive waves of high flood occurred in Assam, which resulted in a tremendous loss in terms of lives, property, standing crops, etc. The first flood wave during the year occurred in the month of May, the second in June, and the third and fourth in July.
These waves of flood-affected almost the entire plain districts of the state. The forest area was fully washed away by floods. Many animals died. People were facing problem to survive as there main source of income was the forest and the animals living in the forest.
There was not a single plant or tree left in the entire place. They all lost hope, many tried to plant trees for 1 month,2month even for 6 months but failed as they lost their patience and left the place.
He was 16 when the flood hit Assam, and Payeng observed that the flow of migratory birds was gradually declining to the forest areas and wetlands near his home and snakes were disappearing in large numbers. This disturbed him.
He after noticing the deaths of a large number of reptiles due to a lack of a tree cover, started planting Bamboo in an area that had been washed away by floods.
Everybody made a joke of him, not a single person helped him not even his friends,
he was a very good student indeed a bright student in his school.
He always dreamt to become an Engineer.
“I asked my elders, what would they do if all of us die one day, like these snakes. They just laughed and smirked but I knew I had to make the planet greener,” he says.
What a determination at the age of 16.
His village elders told him that with a decline in forest cover and deforestation, animals lost their homes. The only solution was to build new homes or forests for the animals which is next to impossible.
He alerted the forest department they made a joke of him and asked him to plant trees himself.
He lost all his hope and felt failed of his determination.
Then one day he located a riverine island, on the banks of River Brahmaputra, and began to plant the saplings with a little hope left within him at the age of 16. Payeng visited the island and planted a few saplings every day. He never missed to do it for a single day. All his friends left him and moved to cities for higher studies.
With a dream to become an engineer buried in his heart, he started working as a labourer with the social forestry division of Golaghat district when they launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori situated at a distance of 5 km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district.
Payeng was one of the labourers who worked in that 5-year-long project. He chose to stay back after the completion of the project even after other workers left. He looked after the plants and continued to plant more trees on his own, in an effort to transform the area into a forest.
Watering the growing area of plants posed a problem. He could not draw water from the river and water all the growing plants, as the area proved to be vast for one man.
With his own invention, he built a bamboo platform on the top of each sapling
and placed earthen pots with small holes in them.
The water would gradually drip on the plants below and
water them through the week until the pots were drained of water.
With strong determination and tremendous patience, he kept on planting saplings alone silently for unbearable 30 years.
The Man Who Single-Handedly Converted A Washed Out Land Into a 1,360 Acre Forest.
If he wouldn’t have failed he wouldn’t have got this unbearable and amazing willpower.
That forest is now home to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, over and rabbits besides apes and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures. There are several thousand trees. Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares. A herd of around 100 elephants regularly visits the forest every year and generally stays for around six months. They have given birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent years.
Today, that same land hosts 1,360 acres of Jungle called Molai Forest, named after Jadav “Molai” Payeng, the man who made this possible single-handedly.
“My friends have become engineers and are living in the city. I have sacrificed everything and this Jungle is my home now. The recognition and awards that I have received is my wealth and that makes me the happiest man in the world,” Payeng says.
This forest is the main source of income for more than millions of people.
Payeng belongs to a tribe called “Mishing” in Assam, India.
He lives in a small hut in the forest with his wife, and his 3 children.
He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood,
which is his only source of income.
“The education system should be like this, every kid should be asked to plant two trees,” Payeng says.
Awards and Recognition!
- Payeng was honoured at a public function arranged by the School of Environmental Sciences.
- He was honoured at Jawaharlal Nehru University on 22nd April 2012 for his remarkable achievement.
- In the month of October 2013, he was honoured at the Indian Institute of Forest Management during their annual event ‘Coalescence’.
- Payeng has been the subject of a number of documentaries in recent years. A locally made film documentary, produced by Jitu Kalita in 2012 The Molai Forest was screened at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
- The 2013 film documentary Foresting Life directed by the Indian documentary filmmaker Aarti Shrivastava, celebrates the life and work of Jadav Payeng in the Molai forest. These are also the focus of William Douglas McMaster’s 2013 film documentary Forest Man.
- With 8,327 USD pledged on its Kickstarter campaign, the film was brought to completion and taken to a number of film festivals.
- It was awarded the Best Documentary prize at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase in the American Pavilion at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
- In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
- JNU vice-chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory named Jadav Payeng as “Forest Man of India”.
The man who fought alone and won the battle single-handedly. He has sacrificed all the worldly pleasures to save the environment and the eco-system. The country needs more such superheroes who are trying to make the Earth a better place to live for one and all.
He had made it possible which is next to impossible by his patience which he had next to infinity.
Hope you got the four-letter word “FAIL”.
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