Jadav Payeng, fondly known as the 'Forest Man of India,' is known for planting the entire Molai forest all by himself over the course of a few decades. This forest is situated on the Majuli island in the Brahmaputra river near Kokilamukh, Jorhat district, Assam.
You might know Payeng as an environmental activist and a Padma Shri awardee, but the stories of his contribution to conserving the environment are not limited to the Indian boundaries. Currently, school students in America are discovering about this legend through their curriculum.
Sixth-grade students of Green Hills School, Bristol, Connecticut, are studying Payeng's life in their ecology lesson. Their teacher, Navami Sarma, from Assam (India), tells Deccan Herald, "Here, educationists prepare curriculum for particular classes of the school under the districts. Payeng's life journey was incorporated into one such curriculum. It was an extremely proud moment for me, too, as I see Payeng’s contributions being recognised globally.”
The story of Payeng is very interesting. He once saw many dead snakes on the sandbar of Brahmaputra river that died due to heat, after being washed offshore. He was only 16-year-old at the time and decided to plant 20 bamboo seedlings in the area. In 1979, the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori. Payeng became one of the labourers who worked under that project. In fact, he chose to stay back after the completion of the project even five years later. During this time, he not only looked after the plants but also continued planting more trees on his own. His efforts gradually transformed that barren land into a lush green forest which is world-famous now.
The Molai forest’s area is larger than that of Central Park’s in New York, US. This homegrown forest is now home to animals like Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, reptiles, deers, rabbits, monkeys and several varieties of birds, including the exotic vultures.
Payeng recently told The Sentinel that instead of events and functions on government finance for environmental awareness, people should be taught about it in a more effective way. He said, "The world should observe seven days of lockdown every year to maintain the ecological balance of the earth."
Sarma says, "Payeng single-handedly grew an entire forest where many animals have returned to live. He inspires our students to learn about and protect the environment. If every person does a small act, there can be a big impact on the environment."
It is indeed a proud moment for India to see one of our own being acknowledged globally and inspiring educators and young students in the far west.
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