‘The Forest Man of India’, Padma Shri Jadav “Molai” Payeng is the man who single handedly converted a barren sandbank into a luscious 550 hectare forest reserve, also known as Molai forest. He is now all set to take up a new mission of planting 7 million trees in Mexico and spreading the green goal worldwide.
Payeng’s endeavour began at the young age of 16, when he found a large number of snakes dead due excessive heat after floods washed them onto a tree less sandbank. Following this incident, he decided to plant around 20 bamboo seedlings on the sandbank. In 1979, he joined a tree plantation scheme as a labourer and continued to plant more trees on his own even after the scheme ended. His efforts later gave birth to the well known Molai forest, which now is home to bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, monkeys, deers, rabbits, several varieties of birds and several thousand trees.
In December, 2020, the world witnessed a movement when Jadav Payeng signed an agreement with a Mexican NGO Fundación Azteca, aiming to plant 7 million trees in Mexico. It is also confirmed that the North American country will provide him a visa for ten years and he will visit Mexico for three months every year. In his visit, he wants to take an areca nut and a coconut sapling along with him to the land of mariachis and cenotes.
“It is an honour for us to have the opportunity of boosting capacity building in favour of conservation and restoration of ecosystems, through the experience and knowledge of Mr Payeng”, says Cesar Rivas, the Director of entrepreneurship and environmental action at Fundación Azteca. Payeng also has numerous accolades to his name. In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India. He has also received awards like 128th Commonwealth Points of Light Award, Karmayogi Award 2020, honorary doctorate degrees from Assam Agricultural University and Kaziranga University. Several documentaries and films have also been made that celebrates Payeng’s life and his contribution towards a greener tomorrow.
From transforming a barren sandbank into a lush forest to promoting the green goal worldwide, Jadav Payeng’s journey from Majuli to Mexico will forever be etched as a historic movement in the books of global history.
Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Dipakshi Goswami, The North-Eastern Chronicle