One incredible man has put Alan Titchmarsh to shame, spending his entire adult life single-handedly creating a lush, green forest.
Jadav Payeng from Assam, India, planted his very first tree back in 1979 when he was just 16-years-old.
An amazing 39 years on, and Jadav’s passion continues; stemming from his desire the preserve the gorgeous landscape of Majuli, the largest river island on earth.
The forest – known as Mulai Kathon – now exceeds the size of New York’s Central Park, covering an extraordinary 1,360 acres. This is not your mum’s hanging baskets.
Jadav was first motivated to begin planting after becoming alarmed by the devastation caused by the floods and droughts he witnessed during his youth.
Every day, he planted a sapling in the earth; gradually transforming the sparse patch of ground into a beautiful forest, rich with wildlife.
Today, the forest is home to Bengal tigers, rhinoceroses and vultures as well as 115 elephants. However, his brilliant contribution has only been recognised in recent years.
Photo journalist Jitu Kalita spotted green fingered Jadav planting his seedlings back in 2007, while out photographing birds. He became fascinated by Jadav’s commitment to nature.
Speaking in the documentary Forest Man, Jitu spoke of his first encounter with Jadav:
I saw something strange… it looked like a forest far in the distance.
I began walking towards it and when I reached it I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had found a dense forest in the middle of a barren wasteland.
After Jitu published an article in a local paper, Jadav – who makes a living selling milk – became fondly known as the ‘Forest Man of India’. Now wildlife lovers from all around the planet know and appreciate Jadav’s story.
"Make excuses or make changes. The choice is your."
Watch how Jadav Payeng believed that one person can make a difference in the world that'll help to make it a better place.
— Rabyanoor (@rabyanoor1) August 7, 2018
Jadav remains fiercely dedicated to his forest, insisting he will defend it until his ‘last breath’ from threats such as poachers and illegal loggers.
Speaking about the disrespect to nature among some people, Jadav pondered:
Humans consume everything until there is nothing left. Nothing is safe from humans, not even tigers or elephants.
I tell people, cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees.
What I love about this story is it reminds me that one person can absolutely make a big difference.
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) August 6, 2018
After being awarded a Padma Shri civilian award from the Indian government back in 2015, Jadav’s good work is still far from over. Going forward, the Forest Man hopes to grow his oasis to 5,000 acres.
He reportedly enjoys a stress-free lifestyle in his homeland; rising at 3am each day to head to his bountiful forest by boat or by bike.
He believes this quiet yet productive way of life is in stark contrast to the hectic, often wasteful lifestyles of those living in the big cities.
Reflecting on the downside of metropolises in the widely watched documentary, Jadav said:
Things are different in concrete forests (cities). Those people sit in air conditioned rooms unmindful of the pollution created outside.
People are fighting with each other, people here don’t fight. They do their work, eat their food, breath oxygen and live in peace.
People from all corners of the earth now come to experience the peace of Mulai Kathon for themselves, awestruck by the positive impact one person can have on the world around them.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.