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Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants Entire Forest

Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants Entire Forest


Written by Stephen Messenger

A little over 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav “Molai” Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India’s Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acre of jungle that Payeng planted single-handedly.

The Times of India recently caught up with Payeng in his remote forest lodge to learn more about how he came to leave such an indelible mark on the landscape:

It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage . I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested,” says Payeng, now 47.

While it’s taken years for Payeng’s remarkable dedication to planting to receive some well-deserved recognition internationally, it didn’t take long for wildlife in the region to benefit from the manufactured forest. Demonstrating a keen understanding of ecological balance, Payeng even transplanted ants to his burgeoning ecosystem to bolster its natural harmony. Soon the shadeless sandbar was transformed into a self-functioning environment where a menagerie of creatures could dwell. The forest, called the Molai woods, now serves as a safe haven for numerous birds, deers, rhinos, tigers, and elephants — species increasingly at risk from habitat loss elsewhere.

Despite the conspicuousness of Payeng’s project, Forestry officials in the region first learned of this new forest in 2008 — and since then they’ve come to recognize his efforts as truly remarkable, but perhaps not enough.

“We’re amazed at Payeng,” says Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia. “He has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.”

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo from Kaustav Das Modak via flickr

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8:22PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Wow he planted all those trees that is just truly amazing and he must have a wonderful heart for doing all that and I also bet hes super fit!

8:21AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Payeng is remarkable and marvellous, such a delight to see someone so dedicated!

11:46AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

What an incredible legacy!

5:53AM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

thanks for sharing.

4:55PM PDT on May 24, 2012

Molai you are a hero!!

11:24AM PDT on May 24, 2012

This kind of madness only can happen in my native land ASSAM, becoz the meaning of Assam is like...Not equel with others. Wel-come to Assam to know & feel differently. Man may hate you, but, time never hate you.....

8:39AM PDT on May 24, 2012

What a wonderful & amazing man.

8:35AM PDT on May 24, 2012

Payeng, is a hero and should be recognized as such!

6:53AM PDT on May 24, 2012


10:45AM PDT on May 17, 2012

Wow brought tears to my eyes.

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