Sunday, April 28, 2019


I personally felt all lost, when I read this! Again, Sangli was among the hottest districts in Maharashtra, with an all time high at 43 degrees. Are we heading towards a dry death? Can we do something about it? I remember, when we shifted our base to Sangli, it was a very pleasantly cool city. With river Krishna at its helm, a very fertile golden green belt producing almost all types of fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, it was a heaven to live in. Can I really say the same about it today? I really doubt! What has changed in the last few years? Is it too much of industrialization? or deforestation? or urbanization? Its time to introspect. Here's a man who single handedly planted a green forest, with his staunch determination and hard work! Can we learn something from him? I implore the younger generation to take notice of it and act and act quickly!


This is a story of a “Forest man” who transformed a leafless, treeless, barren wasteland island to a blooming forest, by continuously planting trees, for thirty consecutive years. The title of “The Forest Man of India” was conferred upon him by the then president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Very recently, Padmabhushan Awards, the highest honour in India, were distributed at the hands of the President of India and one unknown recipient was Jadav “Molai” Payeng!
 Jadav “Molai” Payeng , aged fifty six, has dedicated his life, since 1979, to the sole duty of planting trees and covering Mother Earth with greenery. His dedication and focus has been so great that he has succeeded in planting each tree with his own hand and erected a jungle called “Molai Kathoni” on a huge, two hundred and fifty acres of wasteland, a barren island, in the basin of river Brahmaputra. “Molai” is his nick name and “kathoni” designates “jungle”!
His jungle is full of one hundred and ten types of useful medicinal trees like Bambu, Saag, Kate Sawar, Subabhul, Kadamba, Ain, Arjun, Kapok and Shewari. Hippopotamus and Rhinos from the nearby Kaziranga sanctuary, elephants from Arunachal, come to stay here for three to four months. Bear, deer, rhinos, striped Royal Bengal Tigers are seen in these jungles. Molai Kathoni has been a home for birds like sparrows to vultures and eagles.
No one was aware of this person, till about five years back. Today Jadav “Molai” Payeng has a new identity as “The Forest Man of India”.
It took thirty years for this Jadav Payeng’s “World of forests on barren island”, to be known to the outside world. Very much coincidently, the information about Jadav Payeng’s island world came into lime light, because of a Jeetu Kalita, a news reporter and an amateur photographer. Jadav Payeng resides in a typical bamboo house, in Kokilamukh area, about twenty five kilometres from Jorhat, the cultural capital of Assam. The road leading to the house is very bad. Very silently flowing Brahmaputra River bifurcates very close by and then unites again, as it flows further.
Jadav Payeng’s surprising and miraculous journey was initiated by a question, “Nature bestows us all resources with both the hands but what do we give, in return”? He had seen the disastrous Brahmaputra floods, in childhood, which did not allow a single tree to be left on the island! Hundreds of snakes died in the scorching heat, because there was neither any shadow nor any burrow to hide! At a young age of sixteen to seventeen years, Jadav Payeng became restless with a worry that even human beings will face this situation, one day, if there were no trees left. Elderly people made fun of him and advised him to plant trees. They also gave him a few Bamboo trees. Taking the advice very much to heart, he started planting trees singlehandedly and his work continues, even today!
For the last thirty years, he has been slogging like a mad person. Getting up at three thirty in the morning, crossing the river in his own boat, he goes to the island, collecting small plants and seeds and planting them after digging trenches. He takes a follow up every day and takes care that the plants grow, despite adverse conditions of rains, heat and winds!
It takes about half an hour, to cross the river by a boat, to Molai Kathoni, followed by island Aruna Sapori after which we reach the cow shed of Jadav Payeng, after about a walk of five to seven kilometres. Tending pigs and about fifty to sixty cows, helps him in getting daily bread. Next to the shed, is a small fencing, inside which, vegetables have been planted. Everything grown here, right from cow milk to rice and vegetables, is organic, free of any chemical poison.
Every tree in the Molai Kathoni forest has its own story.
In the initial stages, the elephants that came to the jungles destroyed the village and the houses in the village. Disturbed villagers came to hit Payeng and cut down the trees in the forest. Payeng took a stance that they would have to first cut him down, before cutting the trees. This pacified them. He had just a simple thought that the elephants should get what they like, from the jungles, so that they would stay in the jungles.
Jadav did not waste even a single plant, during the initial period of erection of the jungle. About ten years back, a small plant came floating to the island with a wooden plank, which he saved delicately and planted it here. Today it is transformed into a great, huge tree supporting life.
Jadav is continuously thinking of just one thought, about planting trees, which will take root early and grow quickly. The island has one tree which protects animals and birds during floods. He had brought big, red ants and left them near the roots of the tree, so that they would eat up the white ants, eating up the tree. This idea worked and the ants now have a huge ant hill, in the huge stem of the tree which protects many important components of the ecosystem during floods.
A complete, self-sustaining ecosystem is visible in Molai Kathoni. Jadav hates human interference in this eco-system. In the initial period, hunters killed rhinos, the fossils and remains of which are still visible in the jungles. Jadav firmly believes that the greatest danger Mother Earth faces is from human beings. He shows the visitors, all those places which are visited by tigers and elephants. Tigers have killed his sixty to seventy cows till today but he doesn’t complain about them.
He doesn’t take the credit of planting the jungle alone on the one thousand, two hundred and fifty acres of Wasteland Island. According to him, birds, winds and every component of nature is equally responsible.
Image result for Jadav “Molai” Payeng photo

He suggests that if we wish to protect Mother Earth from the drastic weather changes, we should plant trees. He is confident that the younger generation will preserve and protect, what we have planted. He insists that the lessons of environment protection should be included in all school syllabi. He believes that if each student plants just two trees and takes care of them, the Mother Earth will be greener.
Crossing one more stream of Brahmaputra, Jadav has discovered another island “mekahi” beyond Muloi kathoni. He has already started his favourite job of planting trees on the two thousand acres land of Mekahi, since last four years. He has decided that he will grow a jungle on Mekahi, the barren sand island, in the forthcoming years.
Many people visit Molai Kathoni, to see Jadav’s work and take inspiration from it. He is happy and satisfied that at least after thirty years, his work has reached people and it is being acclaimed worldwide!
He is being internationally known as “The Forest Man of India”. He is being felicitated and awarded by many states and country. But he believes that planting trees is a more important job.
We feel very small when he says that his house is one thousand, two hundred and fifty acres big. The forest man is striving towards establishing real jungles on sand islands and on the other hand, human beings are cutting down trees to erect cement jungles. Jadav Payeng stands out in the crowd, which selfishly thinks only about own family, while he is worried about the birds, animals and Mother Earth. 
He is our great hero because he dreams of and strives towards carrying forward and gifting the next generation with a greener, lush Mother Earth!

Dr. Mrs. Jaya Vikas Kurhekar
Green Blogger