The Molai Forest in Assam, in northeastern India, is doubly unusual. One, it’s located on a river island that’s essentially a sandbar the size of Philadelphia. And tow, the forest is man-made, as in made by just one incredibly dedicated man.
It all began in 1979 when Jadav “Molai” Payeng, 16 years old at the time, saw that some snakes had died on the sandy island after a flood. “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.” He had to consider the entire ecosystem, right down to ants. As he told the Times of India, “I also transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil’s properties. That was an experience.”
Payeng has been at it ever since and has created a forest that now covers over 1,300 acres, an area nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park. About half the forest is bamboo, but he’s carefully planted a diverse array of trees elsewhere. The forest on this once barren piece of sandbar has attracted all sorts of wildlife, notably, deer, vultures, rhinoceroses, tigers, monkeys, and it’s regularly visited by a herd of over 100 elephants. Unsurprisingly, Payeng is a strong opponent of the wanton destruction of forests: “I tell people, cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees!”
Payeng’s efforts eventually received recognition in India and then from around the world. William Douglas McMaster, a Canadian filmmaker made a short documentary called “Forest Man” about Payeng and his decades of incredible work.
Check out the video posted below and let us know what you think of this amazing arborist’s life’s work in the comments section below the video. Don’t forget to like and share!