If you travel to the Northeast region of India, you will encounter a number of sights. You will see the plentiful tribes of India, the gorgeous wildlife and nature, and a culture unlike most you’ve seen before. But if you venture into the state of Assam, you’ll find something far more special and rare. You will meet Jadav Payeng, known to the world as “The Forest Man of India.”
When he was a young teenager, Jadav encountered an experience that deeply moved him. In 1979, he discovered a bunch of dead snakes piled on the sand. They presumably were killed by the scorching hot temperatures of the area as there was no shade for them to hide under. In fact, there were barely any trees in the area.
“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,” the now 47-year-old said to The Times of India.
Jadav tells NPR, “When I saw it, I thought even we humans will have to die this way in the heat. It struck me. In the grief of those dead snakes, I created this forest.”
At that moment, Jadav found his calling. He decided that no other living organism should experience the same fate as those dead snakes, so Jadav began to plant seeds. Jadav wanted to create a habitat for wildlife and oppose people who were cutting trees down.
For almost every day for 37 years, Jadav would plant seeds and trees. Slowly but surely, a whole new ecosystem began to develop. By now, Jadav has completely lost count the number of seeds and trees he’s planted, but he estimates there are hundreds of thousands of them on the island in Assam.
Today, it’s estimated that the forest now approaches a size of 1,360 acres. For comparison, Central Park in New York only has a surface area of 778 acres. The forest is now home to a marvelous range of exotic wildlife. Rhinoceroses, deer, tigers, and even 115 elephants have settled in the expansive forest, calling it home. Vultures have even returned for the first time in 40 years.
The very dedicated Indian arborist has truly built an ecological paradise for wildlife, a fantastic example of how beautiful nature can be.
In 2015, Jadav was honored by the entire Indian government with the Padma Shri award. It’s the fourth highest civilian award and is highly regarded and prestigious.
“I will continue to plant until my last breath,” Jadav said. A fantastic story!
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Meet the Man Who Planted a ForestThis man began planting a forest in 1979—and now it’s the size of Central Park. http://on.natgeo.com/1Woq730
Posted by National Geographic on Tuesday, 10 May 2016
Source: National Geographic