His efforts have brought back many animals including rhinoceroses, deer, tigers, and over 115 elephants that live in the forest. It also witnessed vultures returning to the area for the first time in 40 years.
At a time when it is the need of the hour to tackle climate change, one can't help but notice how people keep clamoring to change our lifestyle to save the planet. We talk about getting rid of plastics, recycling, reducing our carbon footprint and whatnot. However, actions speak louder than words and this man from India is a sheer testament to that age-old adage.
Meet Jadav Payeng, also popularly known as the "Forest Man of India", who started planting seedlings as a teenager in the 1970s and has now created an entire forest single-handedly. It all happened on the once-barren sandbar on banks of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India which has now completely transformed into a beautiful forest that is now larger than the size of New York City’s Central Park. As reported by the Huffington Post.
In the late 70s, Jadav had noticed many snakes washing ashore, dead. The island of Majuli was losing its vegetation, leaving the place barren and prompting many residents to leave. In the last 100 years, Majuli had lost over 70 percent of its landmass.
#CleanandGreenVillage campaign was today launched by Forest dept Brand Ambassador Jadav Payeng at Johing village in Lakhimpur district. The event was also graced by DC Jeevan B, Swachha Bharat (NE) Ambassador Sotai Kri, SP Sudhakar Singh and other dignitaries. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/mzgjeqrGY5— MyGov Assam (@mygovassam) October 12, 2018
And that's when Jadav decided to take matters into his own hands, planting seeds all over the land to stave off erosion in the area. But as his trees grew bigger, he realized it wasn't going to be easy to maintain and protect them. “The biggest threat was from men. They would have destroyed the forest for economic gain and the animals would be vulnerable again," Jadav once revealed in a documentary about his forest.
Live your life knowing that you can change the world to be a better place.— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) August 31, 2019
In 1978, Jadav Payeng began planting a tree, every day, for 37 years — truly remarkable results. pic.twitter.com/zYdL6eM2Tv
His efforts came to the limelight when a nature photographer stumbled upon his forest that is now home to many animals including rhinoceroses, deer, tigers, and over 115 elephants. It also witnessed vultures returning to the area for the first time in 40 years.
“I was exploring a barren part of the Brahmaputra by boat when I saw something strange: it looked like a forest far in the distance … I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Kalita was quoted as saying by Huffington Post.
Following this, there was also a documentary made on Jadav by Canadian filmmaker William Douglas McMaster. He and his team arrived in India’s Assam region in late 2012 and stayed for about a month, following his routine, and how he managed to turn this barren land into a sprawling forest.
“He taught me that you can accomplish a lot with very little,” McMaster said, “He doesn't even wear shoes. His way of life is extremely pure; free of possessions, yet he is extremely happy and positive.”
Jadav Payeng started planting trees on a barren sandbar at 17. He is now 47 and lives in his own 1360 acre forest pic.twitter.com/PqmcfROFSZ— Sid (@ssaig) April 22, 2015
McMaster created an 18-minute short film titled “Forest Man.” It had also won the Best Documentary at The American Pavillion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes. “We hear stories all the time about environmental destruction, and we’re numb to it. Millions of acres of destroyed rainforest are nearly impossible for a person to imagine,” the Toronto-based filmmaker told the publication.
Since 1979, a man named Jadav Payeng has been planting trees due to his concern over the disappearing habitat of local animals. He has single handedly restored over 1,400 acres of forest. 🌳#FactManiac pic.twitter.com/05Zx0R1Oc5— Fact Maniac (@factmaniac) June 12, 2018
“What Payeng has done is to show that a single person can make a measurable, positive impact on the environment,” said McMaster
“I think that message is more powerful than simply showing people all that we’ve done wrong, with no way to make it better.”