Jadav Payeng from Majuli river island in Assam, India single-handedly saved a large chunk of his once barren homeland and turned it into a lush forest with many animals living in it for nearly four decades.
Jadav started his life’s mission in 1979 when he was only 16. He encountered a large number of snakes that later died from the intense heat after floods washed them up onto the sandbar.
Since then, Jadav has worked tirelessly every single day for the last 39 years to plant seeds. His efforts finally paid off and the once barren land turned into 550 hectares (1,359 acres) of forest, which is larger than New York City’s Central Park at 340 hectares (840 acres).
“I started planting this forest in 1979. People say the forest is about 550 hectares,” he said in an interview. “This place is full of trees – I have planted everything myself.”
“At first, planting was very time consuming, but now it’s much easier because I get the seeds from the trees themselves.”
Humans were not the only beings saved by Jadav’s reforestation effort. The forest is now home to many animals including Indian rhinoceros, deer, Bengal tigers, and a herd of more than 100 elephants that regularly visit the forest every year.
Jitu Kalita, a nature photographer, turned Jadav’s life around after he wrote an article in the local newspaper about the man who later received recognition across the country and was given the title “Forest Man of India” by former President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam.
If a single person can do something like this, imagine what millions of people could achieve in the span of 35 years if we work together to save the planet.
“My dream is to fill up Majuli Island and Jorhat with forest again. I will continue to plant until my last breath,” Jadav said. “I tell people ‘cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees!’”
Images via YouTube / William D McMaster