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Jadav Payeng - the man who made a forest

The place: a 550 hectare sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra near Jorhat in eastern Assam, India.

In 1979 floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. After the waters had receded, a local teenager Jadav Payeng, then only 16, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. Without any tree cover the snakes had died in the heat. That was the turning point of his life.
Payeng alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they suggested growing bamboo. Leaving his education and home, he started living on the sandbar. Payeng willingly accepted a life of isolation. He watered the plants morning and evening and pruned them. After a few years, the sandbar was transformed into a bamboo thicket. Payeng then decided to grow proper trees. He collected and planted them. Demonstrating a keen understanding of ecological balance, Payeng even transported red ants from his village to improve the soil's properties.

Today the lush forest on the sandbank is a sanctuary for a variety of birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants.
The Assam state forest department learnt about Payeng's forest only in 2008 when a herd of some 100 wild elephants strayed into it after a marauding spree in villages nearby.
It took a further four years before Payeng received some well-deserved recognition internationally and the Congress MP from Jorhat took interest and said he would make a proposal to the Centre to declare the area a conservation reserve under provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Payeng, today 47, makes a living in the forest he reared, raising cows and selling milk in town. Payeng says “My efforts haven’t gone in vain. I may live a very lowly life, but I feel satisfied that I have been able to stir up a lot of people who love nature.”
Payeng is pledging to devote the rest of his life to planting another forest all by himself.

[01.04.2012] Times of India "The man who made a forest"

[03.04.2012] Huffingtonpost "Indian Man, Jadav "Molai" Payeng, Single-Handedly Plants A 1,360 Acre Forest In Assam"

[21.12.2012] mother nature network "Indian man single-handedly plants a 1,360-acre forest"

[24.04.2013] "Meet the Man Who Spent 30 Years of His Life Planting Trees"