You know what you can do about the problem of deforestation in the world, contact Jadhav ‘Molai’ Peyang, the ‘Forest Man of India’! Yes, this man from Mishing tribe, a factory worker in Jorhat, Assam, is an environmental activist to the core.
Jadhav’s claim to fame is greening Majuli, the largest river island in the world located in the Brahmaputra River, which was nothing but a treeless sandbar. Due to the large embankments built in towns up the river, as protection against the monsoon season, the devastating fury of this river in spate used to get unleashed on this river island.
This repeated river action had shrunk Majuli’sland area by more than half over the last 70 years. Not only this, it had also washed away over 35 villages since 1991. Predictions are that Majulimay gets totally submerged within the next two decades due to constant soil erosion.
But thankfully, there came a messiah in the form of Jadhav‘Molai’ Payeng, who became aware of this island’s plight at the tender age of 16 and decided to do something about it, as the authorities continued to mull over how to save it. His resolve was further strengthened when he saw a large number of dead snakes that had washed up on this treeless sandy island. They had died due to direct exposure to the sun and excessive heat. Since then he made it his life’s mission to save Majuli from further deterioration by giving it a forest cover.
Jadhav set out to achieve this impossible dream by planting a tree a day and converting an astounding 1,360 acres (550 hectares) of this island into the forest. His forest covers way more area than the Central Park in New York city that covers only 840 acres (340 hectares). Developing the forest is an ongoing process that he had been attending to for the last 39 years on a daily basis. It was not surprising that the forest is named Molai forest after his name.
Jadhav’s tireless work has introduced a variety of flora on this island. This has helped in attracting local fauna to this region. There are all kinds of wild animals here, including the famed Bengal tigers, the prized Indian rhinoceros and many more. A herd of wild elephants, that numbers over a hundred, has also made this island forest their annual pilgrimage site.
Jadhav’s work would have gone unnoticed, had it not been for the forest department officials who came looking for a herd of elephants that had destroyed and damaged the property of a nearby village. They reported this amazing forest to the authorities.
Fortunately, Jadhav’s work has not gone unrecognized. He has been a recipient of many awards and honours. The School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) honoured him at a public function in 2012. In fact, it was JNU’s vice chancellor, Sudhir Kumar Sopory who bestowed the sobriquet of ‘Forest Man of India’ on him. In 2015, he received the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award for his dedication in saving Majuli.
The world certainly needs many more such Jhadavs to restore the depleting green cover of the world.