India is a vast and impressive landscape; the subcontinent sizeably swallows up the United Kingdom by up to thirteen and a half times. Home to over one billion people who live within its twenty-eight states and seven union territories, the region is the second most populated country on the face of the planet. Current research by The World Bank has indicated that during the period from 1995 to 2010, India is one of the world’s leading countries in addressing its environmental issues.
As the Indian population continues to skyrocket, it is the revolutionary environmental footprint of a simple man that could be setting the precedent for his peers, and perhaps a wider global audience.
Jadav Payeng is an individual who stands tall as an exemplary representative of humanity in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam. Payeng however is neither a Parliamentary figure nor an influential businessman of any significant stature. He does however cast an enduring innovative silhouette over the Indian environment, living simply in a small hut in the middle of a remote forest, a forest that he created from nothing with his bare hands.
As an impressionable 16-year-old boy, Payeng had an experience that truly affected him, initiating a chain of events that was to set the tone for the rest of his life. Little did he know then, he was going to make a symbolic difference in the world. It was at the finale of the 1970’s, along the river Brahmaputra, that Payeng personally witnessed how deforestation had affected the local ecology.
A flood had washed up a plethora of snakes onto a sandbar, which had perished in the heat due to the absence of tree canopy. This set the trend for the rest of the ecosystems, as the topsoil was washing away, trees soon followed. Payeng was deeply moved by what he witnessed and it was at this point that he decided to take action. What was about to follow was a story of inspirational perseverance and dedication. The forestry department advised him there was little chance of growing much apart from bamboo. Undeterred, Payeng was determined to succeed.
On a daily basis for 34 years, Payeng has ritually planted trees and, because of their favourable soil changing abilities, even braved the stings of Red Ants as he transported them. In the process Payeng developed a deep and intricate ecological knowledge of the landscape. Today the appearance of the sandbar has altered dramatically; today what exists here is a vast and abundant spectrum of rich green forest. The ecological masterpiece now comes complete with a myriad of life including wild deer, elephants and an increase in migratory birds, In addition, once endangered animals such as the One Horned Rhino and Bengali Tiger have also been spotted here.
In recognition of this majestic creation, the Assam government has named the forest Molai, after Payeng’s pet name. As much as Pablo Picasso could conjure gems upon a canvas; Payeng has equivalently illustrated into the landscape. Payeng exhibits innate traits of beauty and has painstakingly followed a spiritual journey that some would analogously liken to revolutionary figures such as Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. The word admirable seems to portray a small portion of justice to describe the assiduous dedication Payeng has exhibited to his cause.
The ecowarrior has worked quietly for the majority of his life, why does he now deserve his position in the spotlight? Should it be the examples provided by the likes of Jadav Payeng that are sung from the tallest mountaintops, through the remotest regions to our populous cities, to ultimately reverberate throughout the human race.
How else can aspects of our existence be revolutionalised to leave behind sustainable footprints for the environment, and ultimately our future?