Guwahati, Assam: What started as a simple tree-planting exercise to prevent soil erosion in his village, has now become a massive green cover of over 1300 acres in Assam. Jaydev Payeng started planting trees in 1979, and has single handedly planted most of the trees in the Molai forest, nearly 350 kilometres away from Guwahati.
Mr Payeng, who was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to forest conservation this year says, "If each Indian plants one tree we will be free from air pollution forever. Look at our village, the air quality is very good and there is no pollution". Padma Shri is one of the highest civilian awards in the country.
Also called the "forest man of India", Mr Payeng has turned the 1360 acres of barren land encircled by the river Brahmaputra into a sanctuary for animals in three decades. The riverine forest in Jorhat area is now home to the endangered Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros among hundreds of other animals.
His close associate Deban Doley, who has worked with the Padma Shri awardee to plant thousands of trees over the past decade says, "For last 14 years I am working with him and we are getting clean air only because of him and we feel proud that he got the Padma Shri award".
Locals breathe the cleanest air possible away from any kind of pollution, which includes over 700 acres of bamboo plantations. But Mr Payeng's mission is far from accomplished, as he wants to plant more trees.
Mr Payeng belongs to a tribe called "Mishing", lives in a small hut in the forest with his wife and 3 children.
In an era where deforestation is a big and real threat, this one man army has ensured that the future of this area in Assam, is in secure hands