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A Man who built Forest...                                                                             

Dec 14 17, at 19:02 pm
Reading time: 5 mins

We all have been heard from our teacher about planting a tree is important to us even for the coming future. I want to ask to all my readers one question that “Have ever planted a tree in your life”? Answer me via commenting on comment box, Be genuine to yourself. 

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Today I want to share a true story of a teenage boy who when saw snake died because of heat in one of the village of Assam as there were no trees where they can hide and save themselves from the terrible heat. This incident changed his life he not only planted a tree even he planted the Forest. Yes, he single handedly planted a forest which is called ‘Molai Forest’ named after his name Jadav “Molai” Payeng. 

This all started when Molai Peyeng completed his Class X exams from Baligaon Jagannath Baruah Arya Vidyalaya in Jorhat and returned to his birthplace at Aruna Chapori, a river island on the Brahmaputra. On reaching there he witnessed something which was totally shock for him that snake was dying because there was no tree where they can hide save themselves. 

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested," says Payeng.

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Peyeng sowing the seed.

Molai Peyang was distresses and for counseling went to the nearby Deori community village. The snakes had been washed up to the sandbar by floods and had died without tree cover.

The villagers suggested him to grow trees to save the reptiles. For where there are trees, there are birds, and where there are birds, there will be birds’ eggs and fledglings - food for snakes and their ilk. Along with their native wisdom, the villagers offered the boy 50 seeds and 25 bamboo plants. The young boy is all set to grow a plant on the island and he started sowing the seed. 

Religiously since then, Payeng visited the island and planted a few saplings every day for all these years.

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Peyeng Planted a tree.

"The island was close to my home and I began by planting bamboo and indigenous or non-valuable plants. It’s only since the past 15 years that I have begun to plant high value trees like teak," says Peyang.

Watering the growing area of plants posed a problem. He could not draw water from the river and water all the growing plants, as the area proved to be vast for one man.

He built a bamboo platform on the top of each sapling and placed earthen pots with small holes in them. The water would gradually drip on the plants below and water them through the week until the pots were drained off water.

Payeng also released termites, ants, earthworms and insects to work the soil to a fertile condition. 

"Termites and ants are very good at improving the soil fertility. They burrow into the hard-rocky surface making the soil porous and easy to plough," says Peyeng.

Today, that same land hosts 1,360 acres of Jungle. That forest is now home to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, over 100 deer and rabbits besides apes and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures. There are several thousand trees. Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares. A herd of around 100 elephants regularly visits the forest every year and generally stays for around six months. They have given birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent years.

“I never thought that my small initiative would make such a difference one day,” says Peyeng.

“The education system should be like this, every kid should be asked to plant two trees,” Payeng says.

In 1980, he started working with the social forestry division of Golaghat district when they launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori situated at a distance of 5 km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district.

Payeng was one of the labourers who worked in that 5-year-long project. He chose to stay back after the completion of the project even after other workers left. He looked after the plants and continued to plant more trees on his own, in an effort to transform the area into a forest.

Payeng belongs to a tribe called “Mishing” in Assam, India. He lives in a small hut in the forest with his wife, and his 3 children. He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood, which is his only source of income.

“My friends have become engineers and are living in the city. I have sacrificed everything and this Jungle is my home now. The recognition and awards that I have received is my wealth and that makes me the happiest man in the world,” says Payeng.

At the age of 39, on the insistence of village elders, Payeng married 25-year-old Binita and they have three children.

As his forests grew, they posed new problems for the villagers who posed a challenge to Payeng. The forest’s wild elephants began to stray to the villages on the edge of the forest and damage the crops and agricultural fields. Tigers were also noted hunting small village fowls and pheasants. Angry villagers told Payeng that they would destroy his forest as the animals were posing a threat to their lives and crops. Payeng began to plant more trees, especially banana trees, a favourite food for elephants in his jungle. When they get adequate food within the forest, the elephants stopped coming out to the villages, and soon the population of animals such as deer grew, providing enough game for the wild tigers.

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 "Nature has made a food chain; why can't we stick to it? Who would protect these animals if we, as superior beings, start hunting them?" says Peyang.

For his remarkable solo undertaking, the Jawaharlal Nehru University invited Payeng on Earth Day and honoured him with the title of the ‘Forest Man of India’ in 2012.

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Later that year, the former President APJ Abdul Kalam felicitated him with a cash award in Mumbai. The same year, he was among the 900 experts who gathered at the seventh global conference of the International Forum for Sustainable Development at Evian in France. Sanctuary Asia bestowed on him the Wildlife Service Award.  
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In 2015, he was honoured Doctorate from Guwahati University and received the Padma Shri Award from Government of India. “The Padma Shri is an award for encouragement,” he says, “but my aim has always been to do good for the country. Even the President of India has to do something for the earth; otherwise, there will be nobody left, nothing.’

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Expectedly, he spends all the cash awards on more forest. He has now recruited four labourers for planting as he eyes another 5,000-acre area.

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