Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng is a 63-year-old farmer from the world’s largest river island, Majuli in the Brahmaputra River in Assam. He is popularly known as ‘The Forest Man of India’ for his selfless single-handed efforts of several decades planting trees in the barren sandbar of Brahmaputra and turning it into a forest reserve. The forest is named after him (Molai Forest) and is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India covering an area of over 550 hectares.
Molai leads a simple life. His only source of income is by selling the milk he gets from the cattle and buffalo in his farm. He lives in a small hut near his forest along with his wife and three children.
In the year 2015, Molai was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
Molai‘s journey of building the Molai Forest goes back 42 years in 1979 when he was only 16 years old. One afternoon in the summer of 1979 after a flood had recently the island, Molai came across many dead snakes that were washed into the barren sandbar. He was deeply disturbed by the incident. He was told that planting bamboo trees in the sandbar could save them. He then planted around 20 bamboo seedlings in the sandbar.
The same year, the Forest Division of Golaghat in Assam had launched a scheme of tree plantation at 5km from the Kokilamukhin Jorhat district of Assam. Molai was one of the labourers working on the project which was completed after 5 years. While all the others left after the project completion, Molai continued with his journey of planting trees on his own and looking after the plants and eventually transformed the area into a forest. This forest slowly became a rich habitat of various kinds of flora and fauna, housing tigers, rhinos, deer, rabbits, monkeys, and several varieties of birds.
Molai looks after the forest every day and protects plants and animals from poachers along with the help of officials from the local Forest Department.
Molai rose to fame in the year 2008 after being discovered by a journalist, Jitu Kalita. Post which he has received mass attention from national and international organizations for his relentless efforts.
In 2014, at a TED talk, Molai raised an eye-opening point:
‘Environment day! Lakhs of saplings are given to schools and colleges in the name of environment day. Every year we celebrate it and plant a seed. And then forget about it. Next year we plant another seed in the same hole. We celebrate environment day every year but there is not one tree. We can only change it if we integrate practically growing trees in our curriculum. And that's how we will make a new India, a new world. Bring the knowledge to practice!’
In 2014, Canadian filmmaker William D McMaster made a short documentary on Molai called the ‘Forest Man’.
Majuli, home of Molai and the largest river island in the world has been eroding at a rate of around 6.42 square km per year. Majuli has been alarmingly shrinking its mass due to the continuous erosion. To put this in perspective, over the last 64 years, Majuli has lost an area larger than the city of Guwahati in Assam. Molai has a simple but viable idea to save Majuli’s erosion: planting coconut trees. Because of the nature of coconut trees that can grow straight and can be planted in proximity, coconut trees can protect the Majuli soil from eroding.
Leaving you all with this quote by Molai extracted from the documentary, ‘Forest Man’:
“All species on this planet are animals, including humans. The only difference is that humans wear clothes. There are no monsters in nature except for humans. Humans consume everything until there is nothing left. Nothing is safe from humans, not even tigers or elephants. But if you want to cut the forest, first cut me then my forest.”
We, at RecycloBin (Earthzy Technology), applaud the efforts of Jadav Payeng. The world needs more people like you!
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