For the last 30 years, Jadav Payeng has been planting trees. Lots of trees. The Assam, India native has planted enough trees to turn a 550-hectare sandbar into a lush rainforest. Enough trees to create an outdoor habitat for five endangered tigers (among other endangered species). Enough trees to get an Indian Congressman to propose it be turned into a national conservation reserve.
That’s a lot of trees.
Enough trees to get The Times of India to take notice and do an expose on him. In it he talks about his motivation for such a huge task, and the incredible results he saw. It all began when a 16-year-old Payeng witnessed the aftermath of a flood that left hundreds of reptiles dead on his sandbar:
“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage . I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested.
“I then decided to grow proper trees. I collected and planted them. I also transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil’s properties . That was an experience.
“After 12 years, we’ve seen vultures. Migratory birds, too, have started flocking here. Deer and cattle have attracted predators.”
Over thirty years (Payeng is now 47) he lived and planted trees on the sandbar, creating an ecosystem that attracted the full spectrum of wildlife indigenous to India, even its top predator.
It was only in 2008 that the Assam forestry service took note of Payeng’s work when a herd of elephants strayed onto the property. They have since taken up work on the plot to help him out. He also caught the eye of congressman Bijoy Krishna Handique, who said he would bring forth a proposal to declare the area a conservation reserve under India’s Wildlife Protection Act.
The resulting forest is now called “Molai’s Woods”, after Payeng’s pet name. Molai’s life and words make an impressive plea for conservation: “Nature has made a food chain; why can’t we stick to it? Who would protect these animals if we, as superior beings, start hunting them?”[Source: The Times of India]