Indian Hero Replants Massive Forest

India native, Jadav Payeng could be considered to have the ultimate "green thumb" due to what many may say is a lifelong hobby of spending the last 30 years single handedly planting and caring for a massive 550-hectare forest, equivalent to 1,360 acres.  The forrest is located on a sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India.

In 1980, Assam's Jorhat district's social forestry division launched a tree-planting initiative on 200 hectares of the land.  After five years, the project was completed and the laborers left, except for Payeng who chose to live in isolation on the sandbar to care for the trees and continue to plant thousands more.

First he transformed the sandbar into a bamboo thicket, he then decided to grow proper trees by collecting and planting them.  Payeng transported red ants from his village because of their ability to change the soil's properties.  The forest is home to thousands of varieties of trees as well as a thriving wildlife population including many endangered animal species such as four tigers, three rhinos and more than a hundred deer, rabbits and apes.  There are also a number of variety of birds who flock to this river paradise as well as a herd of about 100 elephants that are known to visit every year for about six months.

The Assam state forest department learnt about Payeng's forest only in 2008 when a herd of 100 wild elephants strayed into it after a marauding spree in villages nearby.  They also destroyed Payeng's hutment.  It was then that assistant conservator of forest Gunin Saikia met Payeng for the first time.

" We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar.  Locals, whose homes had been destroyed by the pachyderms, wanted to cut down the forest, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead.  He treats the trees and animal like his own children.  Seeing this, we too, decided to pitch in," Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia tells the Times of India.  "We're amazed at Payeng.  he has been at it for 30 years.  Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero."

There are now talks of Mulai's forest, (the name given to the forest adopted from Payeng's nick name given to him by the people of his village) being declared a wildlife sanctuary.  If the government proves itself capable of caring for the land, Payeng will start planting elsewhere.