Cousin Island Special Reserve has one of the best rehabilitated forests of any tropical island but it took a global organisation (Birdlife International) as well as a local NGO (Nature Seychelles) about 40 years and many people involved. This was done to save the critically endangered Seychelles Warbler, then took on a life of its own as it was seen that the forest benefited other wildlife.
It is refreshing when you stumble upon a story and sneak preview of a documentary about one man who has planted an entire forest with no motive for fame or fortune, just a sense of care for nature and other creatures.
A breath of fresh air in a world which is increasingly ‘polluted’ with alarming news bulletins, facebook posts, youtube videos and other forms of instant communication that predict doom for the earth and all its inhabitants unless there are drastic changes to how we live on this planet.
Indeed, conservation crusaders and petition peddlers play a vital role via the media, online and on the streets in raising awareness to the public on key environmental issues and lobbying governments and institutions to pass or nullify policies in favour of conservation.
Even so, a story such as that of the ‘Forest Man’ is a wonderful reminder that there is a positive movement on the other side of the conservation coin and how much good one person can do if they put their mind and heart to it.Jadav Molai Payeng has transformed a desolate sandbar into a lush forest that is now also a wildlife haven.
When he was just a teenager, Jadav started planting trees to create what is now known as the Molai Woods. Molai Woods is a tropical forest that covers nearly one thousand five hundred acres of land on Majuli Island in India’s Northern region. Majuli Island also happens to be the largest island river in the world.
Jadav dedicated his life to creating a landscape with tree cover after a flood in 1979 when he was only sixteen years old. He was distraught to find dead snakes that had been washed onto the sand bank once the flood waters had retreated.
So began his journey of planting seeds and trees, introducing ants and other insects, and inadvertently creating a safe abundant home and migratory route for tigers, deer, rhinos, elephants, and birds. Jadav guards the life of these creatures with his own life against poachers.
Despite the conspicuousness of a 1,360 acre forest, Jadav’s efforts were not known, let alone recognized, not even by relevant government institutions in the region. It was not until Jitu Kalita, a photographer, accidentally found the forest and wrote an article about it, that Jadav started to receive recognition and awards for his life’s work.
Jadav’s single handed labour of love for the environment is now being immortalized in a documentary titled “Forest Man”. The preview of this award winning documentary has the promising signs of a compelling tale.
Certainly, Jadav’s work is not unique and there are others like him, individuals and organizations that have had great achievements in habitat restoration. Examples are Kenya’s Nobel Laureatte Wangari Maathai, China’s forestry worker Ma Yongshun, India’s Abdul Karim and International organisations such as Trees For The Future.
Nature Seychelles too has rehabilitated reclaimed land at The Sanctuary in Roche Caiman, and turned it into a thriving mangrove forest habitat that is teeming with wildlife.
Naturally, not everyone can set out to plant a forest but stories like Jadav’s inspire us to care for the environment in our own little way, be it re-using and recycling, not littering, saving energy or water, turning our compound into an edible landscape and other small but powerful things we can do as individuals.
Photos: 1) Jadav looking over the river-courtesy of Ankur Didwania 2) Jadav walking in the Malai Woods photo courtesy of treehugger.com 3) Jadav planting a tree - photo courtesy of nedhardy.com 4) Rhino in Molai Woods - photo courtesy of Gozef (flickr) 5) Jadav on a boat ©Forest Man