The Forest Man of Assam

An incident moved Jadav Payeng, and it led him to plants trees and thus was able to create a forest which has become the habitat of animals in the state of Assam. Mulai kathonibari, the forest created single-handedly by him. Reports Monalisa Go
The Forest Man of Assam

God creates nature and human being destroys it, this is the real scenario of our surrounding. But in Assam, a simple villager of Ounamukh has created a forest by himself and now it has become the habitat of five tigers, more than sixty vultures, more than three hundred different species of  birds, herds of rhinos and elephants visit his forest. Jadav Payeng, commonly known as Mulai, has never thought that he would get so much attention from the nature loving people of the whole world and one day he would be  invited to foreign countries only to train the esteemed guest how to plant trees.

Remembering his childhood days, Jadav Payeng says, “I’m a simple villager. I never thought or even dreamt of becoming rich or of living a luxurious life. I want to spend my time with green trees among birds and beasts. When I was a school student I came to this sandbar with my friends during summer vacation. One day I found that more than hundred dead snakes on the sand. It was rainy season and the snakes did not get a place to rest as there was no tree or any kind of bushes near that area. I cried, and that very day I promised myself that I would start planting trees here and would create a green forest by myself.”

Payeng has been planting trees since 1979 in the barren sandbar, and now after three decades the sandbar has been transformed to a huge green forest of not less than 1360 acres. The forest created by Jadav Payeng is known as ‘Mulai kathonibari’.

Bijit Dutta, a blogger who blogs on eco tourism, says, “Though Jadav Payeng has no formal education he has always maintained a close relation with the professors of Assam Agricultural University. He has buffaloes and cows and he used to sell milk at the professors’ colony of the agricultural university. That way he used to get free advice from them.”

So far, five documentaries have been made on him. Bijit Dutta, the mediator of the Canadian documentary ‘Life style’, says,”This documentary has already been shown at six international film festivals. People across the world praised the theme and the activities of Jadav Payeng. William Doglas Mcmaster, the cinematographer of the documentary, is very happy with his production and informs me that he wants to do more on Jadav Payeng. Arti Srivastav of Mumbai also made another documentary and it has been awarded V.N.S Parjyabaran Award  for its theme,  and another group from Kolkata did a documentary named ‘Forest Man’.”

The director-in-chief of Green Guard Nature Organization, an NGO, Rituraj Phukan says, “I think Jadav Payeng is the only person in the world who has dared to dream to create a forest. He is a dedicated nature activist and has no attraction for glamour or money and this might be the reason of his success.” Jadav Payeng was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by Green Guard Nature Organization.

According to Ananta Nath, a journalist from Jorhat district, “Jadav Payeng is a simple person, and he is a blessing from God to the mankind. At a time when the Assam Government totally fails to protect its reserved forests and the pride of Assam, rhino, Payeng has created a forest without any financial assistance from the government. What he has done without money is really admirable.”

Greener Pasture, an NGO, has awarded a cash amount of Rs 25,000 to Jadav Payeng as a token of recognition. Jawaharlal Nehru University has awarded him the title ‘Forest Man of India’ in 2012 and the University has recognized the name of the forest as ‘Mulai Kathonibari Reserve Forest.’

Jadav Payeng says, “There are five tigers, more than sixty vultures, various kinds of deer, many kinds of snakes and other reptiles, more than 135 elephants visit the forest, rhinos from Kaziranga National Park also visit the area. At first, the local people had not co-operated at all but now they understand that if we do not protect nature we will be no more. Now I, along with my local people, have started ginger and turmeric cultivation here and with the help of this I am able to involve the local people with this forest and also at the same time they also are able to earn money. There are various kinds of huge trees which are planted by me. I also planted amla tree here and never cut any tree and they grow naturally.”

Recently, he was invited to Paris to attend a global conference on environment. Nine hundred representatives of two hundred countries attended the conference and he was requested to show the practical plantation. “They gave me a pine plant and the land of Paris is full of sand and stone. I removed the stones and planted the pine there; all the representatives contributed a spoonful of soil there. They informed me few days back that the plant now is growing. I want to see a green world because without greenish beauty we will be no more in this world,” Payeng hopefully states.

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