Jadav “Molai” Payeng is an environmentalist and forestry worker from Jorhat, Assam, India. In 1979, when he was 16, a devastating flood wiped away a large portion of forest. This left much of the local wildlife without necessary shade, and they began to die off. When Payeng found a dry riverbank littered with dead snakes, he recounted in an interview with “The Times of India” that “”The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms”.
Payeng decided he wanted to rebuild the forest. He contacted his local forestry department but was told nothing-save for bamboo-would grow, as it was now a barren sandbar. Payeng built a small home on the sandbar and began plating bamboo. He also brought red ants from his home village to the sandbar to improve the soil. As the bamboo took root, he began to slowly introduce other species of trees into the island, and began to notice that wildlife began to inhabit his forest.
After nearly 30 years, his forest has grown to a sprawling 1,360 acres.
The forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Deer, birds, apes, and elephants are now frequently found there. More remarkably, two of India’s rarest animals-rhinocerous and tigers-now call the forest home. There are believed to be about three rhinos and four tigers (out of about 2,000 left in the wild), and conservation officials are working to grow their numbers.
Payeng still lives in the same small home he built on the island some 30 years ago with his wife and children. He is also still working to care for the trees and and animals, as well as grow his forest. His conservation work is now heralded by local forestry departments.
In the years since he began to work on the forest, the locals of Jorhat have nicknamed him “Molai”. “Molai” could be a name derived for the Indonesian term “mulai”, which means “to begin, to start”.
Jadav Payeng has turned a barren sandbar into a vibrant forest, and he did this by himself. He lives with his family in a home that he built, in the tropical forest that he created, which now is home to hundreds of animals.
Green Jacket Moment.
Rhino from forest.
Elephant from forest.