Jadav Payeng is a former labourer who lives on the Indian river-Island of Majuli, the largest river island in the world. It is located in northeastern India.
Back in In 1979, he was 16-year old and became devastated when he stumbled upon a pile of dead snakes, scorched to death by extreme heat on the banks of Majuli Island in Assam, India.
The snakes, which came to the island by way of flooding from the Brahmaputra river, could find no shade to escape the heat.
When he saw the snakes, Payeng told NPRhe knew he had to do something about it or else even humans might “have to die this way in the heat.”
Majuli Island had lost more than half its landmass due to erosion in less than 50 years. Scientists at the time said the island could be gone in another 15 to 20, according to the award-winning documentary “Forest Man.“
Committing himself to plant a sapling once every couple of days, 37 years later, Jadav is still tending to his trees, now boasting an area larger than New York City’s Central Park. ‘I will continue to plant until my last breath’ – simply a man who wants man, beast and plant to co-exist in harmony.
It’s now home to elephants, rhinos, tigers, and more.
it’s no longer the planting of trees and vegetation that Jadav concerns himself with, having had to report poachers on multiple occasions, Jadav worries that local men will use the forest for economic gain.
‘All species on this planet are animals, including humans’, said Jadav, ‘The only difference is that humans wear clothes’.