Each week, One Earth is proud to feature a Climate Hero from around the globe who is working to create a world where humanity and nature can thrive together.
Known as the “Forest Man of India,” Jadav Payeng planted a tree daily to restore his homeland and created a forest bigger than New York City’s Central Park.
A visionary act of reforestation
At the age of 16, Jadav “Molai” City’s Payeng encountered a distressing scene on Mājuli, the world’s largest river island in India’s Brahmaputra river. Hundreds of snakes had succumbed to a severe drought.
Even in his youth, Payeng felt compelled to take action. In 1979, he embarked on a mission to plant one tree sapling daily in the barren soil. Fast forward over 40 years, and his forest now spans 1,390 acres.
A growing Eden
Mājuli, once under the constant threat of river-induced flooding and erosion, has now become a sanctuary for hundreds of species. Payeng’s initial arduous efforts evolved into a self-sustaining forest from bamboo to various trees. As the trees grew, so did the population of inhabitants — birds, deer, rhinos, tigers, and even a herd of elephants that visit the forest for three months each year.
Being recognized as the “Forest Man of India”
In 2007, a turning point occurred when a photojournalist stumbled upon Payeng’s profound endeavor. The subsequent article brought attention not only to the Indian government but also to the entire nation.
Payeng, now adorned with the title “Forest Man of India,” received multiple awards for his extraordinary achievements and delivered impactful TED talks. His innovative solutions, such as planting coconut trees to combat soil erosion, garnered recognition for their potential to benefit both Majuli Island and the fight against climate change.
Molai, the man and the forest
In recognition of Payeng’s unparalleled environmental activism, the forest was named “Molai” in his honor. His inspirational story transcended borders, inspiring a children’s book, "Jadav and the Tree Place.”
Award-winning documentaries showcase his journey, attracting visitors worldwide to witness the flourishing Molai forest. Moreover, his story has become a valuable lesson in ecology, incorporated into curriculum across schools in the US and beyond.
Creating a better world for all
Payeng’s life’s work extends beyond the creation of a lush forest. His trees absorb carbon dioxide, acting as a natural carbon sink, contributing to overall ecosystem health, supporting biodiversity, regulating water cycles, and providing essential habitats for various species.
His reforestation efforts are a tangible and impactful solution to climate change. The Molai forest is a living example of how individual actions can contribute to a sustainable and harmonious coexistence between humanity and the environment.Discover more Climate Heroes