Jadav Payeng, made a big discovery in 1979 when he found several dead snakes in the sandy banks of the Brahmaputra River’s Majuli Island. The creatures were killed due to the island’s ack of shade, and as a 16-year-old at the time, he decided to dedicate his life to do something about the environment he lives.
“When I saw it, I thought even we humans will have to die this way in the heat, It struck me,” he said.
He pledged to plant a sapling in its sandy soil every day—an admirable act that would eventually culminate in Molai Forest, a lush 550 hectare woodland. He first started with bamboo trees, then cotton trees, and soon the are was covered in different varieties of plants. The island has flourished, attracting an abundant audience of animals that includes elephants, rhinos, deer, wild boars, vultures, reptiles, and even Royal Bengal tigers.
On top of saving wildlife and replenishing a colorful ecosystem, Payeng’s afforestation project has helped preserve the island’s landscape. During Payeng’s childhood, it had been attached to the mainland. However, the sandy nature of its banks left it particularly vulnerable to erosion. Today, however, the land is anchored by the trees, protecting the sandbars from the harsh river waters.
Payeng is highly praised for his contribution to the environment, but still he is too humble to take all the credit. “It’s not as if I did it alone,” he says. “You plant one or two trees, and they have to seed. And once they seed, the wind knows how to plant them, the birds here know how to sow them, cows know, elephants know, even the Brahmaputra river knows. The entire ecosystem knows.”