Majuli Island is the largest river island in the Brahmaputra River. According to the Daily Mail, Majuli shrinks in size every year. Continuous flooding causes soil degradation, and water grabs new areas.
Its area has been reduced three times thus far, from 1100 square kilometers to 352 square kilometers.
After another flood in 1979, Jadav Payeng, one of the island’s residents, decided to take matters into his own hands.
A 16-year-old spotted dead lizards on the beach owing to a lack of trees. Then he had the brilliant idea of planting trees on the island.
He labored tirelessly every day to construct 560 hectares of woodland.
In comparison, New York’s famous Central Park spans 341 hectares. The planted woodland was dubbed “Forest of Molay” after its inventor.
Jadav is a simple and modest man who lives in the bush with his wife and three children in a jungle home. The family makes a living by selling milk from cows and buffaloes raised on the man’s property.
The people called the forest “Molai Kathoni”, after Payeng’s childhood nickname. Jadav aims to plant trees on the other bank of the river.
Jadav received one of the country’s highest honors, the title “Man of the Forest,” from the Indian government.
Deer, Bengal tigers, monkeys, buffaloes, wild boars, monkeys, and various birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects live in the forest. A herd of elephants travels here from another part of the island.
Jadav’s main calling is to develop a forest, and his next goal is to plant 500 hectares more.
“It could take another 30 years, but I’m hopeful. It makes me sad to watch people cut trees. We must protect nature or we will all die.”
He expects everyone to plant at least two trees.
In 2012, Payeng was invited to Jawaharlal Nehru University. At the welcome, the Rector of the University formally called Jadav Payeng “The Man of the Forest.”