Every day, for 40 years, this man planted a tree on a desolate island, now he lives in Eden
Jadav Payeng decided to save the island when he was 16-years-old and ever since then, he has not looked back. Today, it is home to Bengal Tigers, rhinos, vultures and elephants!
At the mere age of 16, Jadav Payeng decided that he was going to fill a barren land with greenery and nearly 40 years since that, he has managed to grow a forest of his own. In 1979, Jadav, from Assam, India planted his first tree in order to preserve the gorgeous landscape of Majuli, the largest river island on earth. After all these years, the forest, known as Mulai Kathon covers an extraordinary 1,360 acres. Jadav first decided to take matters into his own hands after he witnessed the devastation that was caused by floods and droughts on the land. Ever since then, every day he planted a sampling which has now grown into a forest that serves as home to wildlife.
Today, the forest is home to Bengal Tigers, rhinos and vultures as well as 115 elephants. As reported by Unilad, Jadav's passion came to light after photojournalist Jitu Kalita spotted him planting the sampling back in 2007. He was fascinated by Jadav's commitment and realized that the entire world deserved to know this man. Speaking in the documentary 'Forest Man', Jitu recalled his first encounter with Jadav.
"I saw something strange… it looked like a forest far in the distance," he said. "I began walking towards it and when I reached it I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had found a dense forest in the middle of a barren wasteland." After Jitu published his article in the local newspaper, Jadav, who currently makes his living by selling milk, became known as the ‘Forest Man of India’.
Jadav remains connected to nature and says he would continue to do what he doing until his last breath. Jadav also reflected on how humans are sometimes the reason why forests and wildlife are dying. "Humans consume everything until there is nothing left. Nothing is safe from humans, not even tigers or elephants," he said. "I tell people, cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees."
In 2015, Jadav was awarded the Padma Shri civilian award from the Indian government but despite this, he believes that his work is far from over. Jadav now hopes that he can spread his forest up to 5,000 acres. Jadav enjoys a blissful life being surrounded by greenery. He reportedly wakes up every day at 3 am and then travels by boat or his bike to come and enjoy his time surrounded by the forest and its beauty.
Jadav believes that life in metropolitan cities is hectic and is often the reason for people to feel stressed. As for him, he enjoys a plain and simple life. "Things are different in concrete forests (cities). Those people sit in air-conditioned rooms unmindful of the pollution created outside," he said. "People are fighting with each other, people here don’t fight. They do their work, eat their food, breath oxygen and live in peace."