Forest Man: Meet the Indian man who planted a whole forest single-handed.

547785_373513996039977_765183361_nA woodland planted single-handedly by a villager determined to save his home from soil erosion is now bigger than Sherwood Forest.

The sprawling jungle, created by Jadav Molai Payeng, 50, was only recently discovered by outsiders and has been praised as a vital habitat for Bengal tigers, elephants, rhinos, deer, rabbits, apes and a huge variety of birds.

Mr Payeng began planting trees when, as a 16-year-old boy, he discovered snakes which had died because their natural cover had been destroyed by erosion caused by flooding.

He started to regularly pace the length of the sandbanks, planting seeds as he went, in the hope he could prevent more wildlife perishing.

His project now covers 1,360 acres — more than twice the area of the London 2012 Olympic Park.

It has transformed a swathe of the river island where he lives from an environment ravaged by flood erosion to one of the new wonders of the world.

Now Mr Payeng, of the Majuli Island in the Brahmaputra river, India, has announced he will dedicate the rest of his life to protecting the new habitat.

“My dream is to fill up Majuli Island with forest again,” he said.

“All species on the planet are animals, including humans. The only difference is humans wear clothes.”

621876_456766234381419_2058207494_oIt is estimated that Mr Payeng has planted more than 10,000 trees since 1979. The trees have, in turn, gone on to seed new saplings, leading to rapid growth.

As word of his achievement has spread to the wider world, Mr Payeng has issued warnings to speculators who would exploit his island’s new natural riches.

He said: “There are no monsters in nature, except for humans. Humans consume everything until there is nothing left.

“Nothing is safe from humans, not even tigers or elephants.

“I will continue to plant until my last breath. I tell people, cutting my trees will get you nothing. You will have to cut me before I allow you to cut my trees.”12732_437529419638434_1406697998_n

Filmmaker Will McMaster, 30, learned about the forest after a photographer stumbled upon it while travelling through the area in 2008.

Mr McMaster, of Toronto, Canada, is now producing a documentary film about the Molai forest, which is named after its inspiring steward.

He said: “Jadav Payeng is an environmentalist in the truest sense of the word. He’s concerned not only for his own forest, but for the whole world.

“He cares about Majuli Island and the destruction from soil erosion which it is experiencing.

“He now plans to plant coconut trees to combat erosion. No government agency is acting, so he’s just doing it himself.”

elephantA herd of more than 100 elephants visits the forest every year for around six months. Observers have counted ten elephants which have been born in Molai forest.

Mr McMaster said: “Jadav has planted his forest not only for the sake of trees, but to create a refuge for animals.

“He has a deep spiritual connection with the animals and told us he communicates with them — I can certainly believe that after meeting him.”

The Molai forest is only accessible by boat and hike. Mr McMaster’s team has to be accompanied by armed rangers to protect them from dangerous wildlife.

He said: “Approaching the forest is a weird experience. It just looks like a natural forest at first, but as you get closer, it becomes clear that it was planted by a human.

“As Jadav led us through the forest for the first time, he told us about which parts he planted when. Many of the trees are planted so they’re evenly spaced.

“There’s a dizzying variety of different species. There’s no way I could keep track of them all.

“My eyes kept telling me what I was seeing couldn’t possibly be real, but my brain knew it was.

Mr McMaster, whose film was funded with $8,000 donated by internet donors, plans to show his completed documentary at film festivals around the world next year, before releasing it online.

You can find out more about the film here:

This was a story which went out on the Medavia news wire. It wasn’t picked up by the UK press. Probably because there is some information about Jadav’s story online already and the story lacks a British angle. But if  you have a story you think might be of interest to the national media – get in touch:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s