Jadav Payeng was 16 when he witnessed that a large number of snakes had died due to the floods in the northeast Indian state of Assam. That’s when he decided he had to do something about it, not just to protect the snakes but all forest animals, many of whom had lost their lives in the floods.
When he spoke to his village elders, he realised that the decline in forest cover and deforestation were the reason the animals had lost their home. He decided it was up to him to give them back their home, and started his tree planting journey back in 1979 with just 20 bamboo seedlings.
Today, nearly 40 years later, the barren sandbar along the Brahmaputra in eastern Assam has turned into a lush 1,360 acre forest making it a haven for vibrant wildlife and biodiversity—all thanks to one man’s relentless commitment.
Payeng, who is now popularly known as the Forest Man of India, has received various laurels and awards for his efforts as well— from the illustrious Padma Shri Award to the 128th Commonwealth Points of Light award.
Now, the inspiring story of the environmental activist and forestry worker is being taught to kids in schools in the U.S.
Payeng’s tireless efforts of four decades will now be a part of the curriculum of sixth grade Bristol Connecticut school students, in what will be the latest laurel for the 57-year-old from the indigenous Mising tribe of Assam.
"The students are studying about Padma Shri Jadav Payeng as a part of their ecology lesson," said Navamee Sharma, a teacher at Greene Hills School in Bristol Connecticut to Deccan Herald. Other schools in the area are also showing documentaries on Payeng. "The primary reason was to inspire and encourage future generations of the country on how a single person can make a huge positive impact in the world if he or she has the right attitude and determination."
Payeng began planting trees because of his concern over ecological degradation in Majuli island which is now a district in easten Assam. Now, the forest is home to elephants, deer, rhinos and tigers.
An official in the Board of Secondary Education, Assam told The Sentinel that even though the Board has included chapters on Payeng in the textbooks of ninth and tenth grade classes, the development in the U.S. will enhance students' interest.
When asked about this new development, Payeng said he was unaware but was happy to know that students in the U.S. were studying about him and his work.
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