The Forest Man of India

At age 16, environmental activist, Jadav Payeng, saw hundreds of dead snakes, the victims of a major drought occurring on Majuli Reserve, the world’s largest river island in India.

Even at such a young age, he knew someone had to do something... then he decided he was that someone.

In 1979, he started planting a tree sapling a day in the barren soil. Over 40 years later, his forest covers 1,390 acres, approximately the size of 15 football stadiums. He had an idea to save Majuli Island from erosion by planting coconut trees that grow straight and, when planted together in close proximity, they protect the soil. In turn, this would not only help India's economy, but also help fight climate change.

He began by planting bamboo and then moved onto other species. At first, planting trees was time consuming, until the trees started providing the seed themselves. 

As his forest grew dense, so did the amount of inhabitants. Soon, the forest was filled with hundreds of species of birds, deer, rhinos and tigers, and even included a herd of elephants straying into his forest three months out of the year.

Payeng’s life began to change in the fall of 2007, when a photojournalist discovered him seeding his forest and wrote an article about him. He soon gained the attention of the Indian government and then the entire country, winning multiple awards for his incredible achievements.

Payeng has now created a man-made forest bigger than New York City’s Central Park.


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