Jadav Payeng of Assam
The Forest Man of India
Jadav Payeng began planting trees 34 years ago, and now he lives in his own forest, in Assam. One day 16 year old Jadav Payeng, was walking along the shoals of the Brahmaputra river. Here he saw many snakes slithering on the sandbars. Floods had washed these snakes on to the river banks.
Due to the intense heat and the absence of trees, the snakes died in a few days time. Payeng wept when he saw this. There was an island a few kilometres from the banks of the river Brahmaputra. Payeng singlehandedly started planting bamboo trees there, as only bamboo trees could survive in the sandbars.
To water the saplings was a difficult task for one man. So, he created a bamboo platform with earthen pots on them, filled these pots with water and made small holes so that the water would pour on the saplings all week. He released termites and earthworms to help make the soil fertile.
In 1980, Payeng got a job to reforest 200 hectares of land, with the Assam Forestry Division. Although the project ended in five years, he stayed on and now the forest is 1000 hectares.
This land was known as ‘Aruna Chapori.’ It is now home to thousands of species of trees, flowers and bamboo groves. Many species of birds are also found here. The forest now has four tigers and five rhinos, rabbits and many deer.
A herd of hundred elephants visits the forest every year and stays here for a few months. Payeng had specially planted banana trees for these elephants. The forest is now known as ‘Mulai’ forest, as Mulai is Jadav Payeng’s nickname.
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