New Delhi: In 1979 a 16-year-old started planting a tree sapling a day. Today, with that one-tree-a-day practice, he has single-handedly created a forest sprawling over the size of 15 football fields. That truly is the power of one – and the one in question is Jadav Molai Payeng, also called the Forest Man of India. Jadav Molai Payeng turned 550 acres of barren land into a lush green forest on the Brahmaputra with a wide variety of birds and animals – simply by planting trees.
An agricultural scientist once told him, ‘plant trees and they will take care of us’. So, when he saw his home, Majuli island, turning into a desert, that’s exactly what he decided to do. Over the course of several decades, the 59-year-old Padma Shri awardee has earned a reputation as the Forest Man of India, who speaks passionately about biodiversity, climate change and the environment, in India and abroad, and is now helping non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in other countries plant trees and create forests too.
While speaking to NDTV, Mr Payeng said,
From 2012 to today, in ten years, awareness about the climate crisis has grown. Not just in India, but all over the world. Climate change has accelerated, and we aren’t even sure if we will survive. Our mistakes have put younger generations in danger. I am not doing this work for myself, I am doing it to make the earth a better place and to teach people the need to do this.
Mr Payeng’s forest has been named Molai forest after him, and visitors and environmentalists travel from across the world to see it. There is a lesson amongst this dense lush greenery for the whole world.
The Forest Man of India says children must be taught to plant saplings or seeds when they are in school, and also how to care for them in the five years that it takes for that sapling to grow into a tree. This is the only way humans will realise that honouring nature is key to our own survival.
We will have to plant more trees, and make the earth green. That is how we will survive, otherwise, we simply won’t, says Mr Payeng.
The crisis is complex, but the solutions can be quite simple. And as the Forest Man himself has shown, the simplest idea can also create the most effective kind of change.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.