Meet the Forest Man of India: Padma Shri Jadav Payeng

“I will plant till my last breath”- says an enthusiastic Jadav Payeng who has a forest reserve in his name, fully developed and grown by himself. This is why he is also known as Jadav”Molai” Payeng.

This is his story of kindness and compassion towards saving the environment and rejuvenating a barren land into a lush green forest!

Hailing from Majuli, Assam, Payeng is popularly known as the “Forest Man of India” and has planted over 40 million trees in the last 30+ years. He left everything behind to dedicate his life to planting trees and reforestation. The result of his hard work can be seen through the Molai Forest Reserve– a man made forest he created by planting one tree a day since he was 16. This forest is bigger in size than NYC Central Park.   Jadav’s motive is to save the earth and do his best to plant more trees.

For Jadav, kindness and empathy is a man-nature dynamic and runs with an ideal harmony to achieve peace and greenery.  

At  the age of 16, environmental activist Jadav “Molai” Payeng saw hundreds of dead snakes, the victims of a major drought occurring on Majuli Reserve—the world’s largest river island located in the Brahmaputra river in India. Even at such a young age, he knew that someone had to do something. In 1979, at 16-years of age,  he started planting a tree sapling a day in the barren soil- and there was no looking back after that.

Now over 40 years later, his forest covers 1,390 acres—approximately the size of 15 football stadiums. Jadav left behind his formal education to give all his attention to the forest.

Payeng began by planting bamboo and then moved onto other species. At first, planting trees was time consuming until the trees started providing the seed themselves. As his forest grew dense, so did the amount of inhabitants. Soon, the forest was filled with hundreds of species of birds, with deers, rhinos and tigers, and even included a herd of elephants straying into his forest three months out of the year. A common man had achieved something very uncommon by now- he became the nurturer of these species and the forest reserve. 

To honour his efforts and dedication for nature and environment, the forest reserve was named “Molai” forest reserve after him. 

Presently at the age of 63, he is younger than ever and pledges to save the earth with all that he can. He believes all species on this planet are animals, including humans, and that humans don’t realize that frugality and honoring nature is key to our survival. 

Jadav was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2015 by the President of India. He has recently signed an agreement with an NGO Fundacion Azteca, to collaborate on environmental projects in Mexico which aims to plant 7 million trees in the North American country.

With individuals like Jadav Payeng, the road to a sustainable and greener future seems achievable. He comes from the roots of rural and marginalised India and has revolutionised the movement towards reforestation and tree plantation. Compassion and empathy towards nature and its beings is what Jadav follows and lives by. Stories like his inspire many to get up and make a difference!

Here’s to many more environmental heroes like Molai Payeng and their efforts to save the planet for all of us!

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