Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng from Jorhat, Assam is leading by example. In a time when our habits are destroying the natural habitats, this man has spent more than four decades in creating one.
Payeng belongs to the Mishing tribe of Assam and is now an environmental activist.
55-year-old Payeng began planting a tree every day when he was only 16. Imagine that! Every year he planted 365 trees, which means that until today he has planted roughly 14,600 trees! The forest that his actions has created is named, ‘Molai Kathon’. It spans over 1360 acres!
When he was young, Payeng saw a host of natural calamities like floods and droughts, to do his bit, he began planting trees. He saw that due to the heat, a large number of snakes had died after the floods washed them in the barren sandbar of Bramhaputra. That is when he first planted 20 bamboo seedlings. Now tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses live in this beautiful man-made forest.
When the social forestry division of Golaghat district decided to plant 200 acres of forest in Aruna Chapori in Jorhat, Payeng one of the labourers who worked on it. After the project was over, he decided to stay back and expand the forest on his own.
Payeng’s work was discovered by photojournalist Jitu Kalita, who was surprised to find a stretch of forest in the middle of a barren wasteland. After that when Kalita wrote an article about Payeng, he began to be known as ‘Forest Man of India’. A documentary, ‘Forest Man’ by William Douglas McMaster has been made on his life:
Another documentary, ‘Foresting Life’ has been made by Aarti Shrivastava has also been made. A book titled, ‘Jadav and the Tree-Place’ has been written on him by Vinayak Varma, who has also illustrated it.
In the documentary, Payeng says, “Humans consume everything until there is nothing left. Nothing is safe from humans, not even tigers or elephants. I tell people, cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees.”
He aims at expanding the forest to at least 3000 acres in his lifetime. He has been awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. he wakes up at 3 am every day and enjoys a stress-free lifestyle, according to Unilad.
He lives with his wife and three children in a small hut in the forest.