jadav payeng
Jadav Payeng


Jadav Payeng – a man with a nondescript look incapable of even garnering a passerby’s first glance at him forget a second one.

BUT do yourself a favour and pause to get introduced to ‘THE JADAV PAYENG’-a 56-year-old hero who single-handedly transformed a barren sandbar into a 1360-acre forest thriving and flourishing with abundant plant and animal life.

Payeng belongs to the Mising tribe of northeast India, which is the second largest ethnic group in Assam after the Bodos. It all started in 1979 when Payeng was all of 16 years old and had chanced upon dead snakes, which were swept on- shore a tree-less sandbar by the devastating floodwaters of the mighty Brahmaputra.

Brahmaputra river
Brahmaputra river

He was heart broken by this episode and he urged and requested the forest department to plant trees, which fell on deaf years. He was told to plant bamboo instead which was a very painstaking job. Nevertheless, he began doing so himself. Around the same year later the Social Forestry department of Golaghat district employed Payeng to work as a labourer on an afforestation project undertaken by them on Aruna sapori (which means an island). This project unfortunately got abandoned after 3 years of its commencement and everyone disappeared from the island. Since he had nowhere to go Payeng stayed back and continued nurturing and planting more trees by himself. He continued doing this for some shocking 30 years without any support or subsidies, fear or favour from anyone.

Due to his remarkable dedication, his efforts paid off. Molai Kathori (Molai is the name by which Payeng is fondly called & Kathori means forest ) as it is known today takes pride in providing a safe haven to the elephants migrating west from Dibrugarh, rhinos escaping the floods of Kaziranga and tigers fleeing the guns of Karbi Anglong. It is densely populated with innumerable trees like the Bamboo, Arjuna, Jamun, Mango, Shimul, Bhelo, Kadam, Amla, Neem and many more.

Molai forest
Molai Kathori
Molai Kathori
Elephant at Molai Kathori
Molai Kathori
Rhino at Molai Kathori
Molai Kathori
The Bengal tiger at Molai Kathori

Payeng stays on this island with his wife Binita, two sons Sanjay and Sanjiv and daughter Moonmooni.They live a life literally devoid of any frills even a basic necessity like electricity; there is no entertainment but yet they lead a very enriched life. They have 50 cows and buffaloes that live and graze in and around the forest. He earns his living from selling the milk that he procures from them.

A brilliant video by of Molai & his Stupendous sanctuary.A film by Ankur Didwania.

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The Jawaharlal Nehru University on earth Day has honoured Jadav Payeng, April 2012,with the title of ‘Forest Man of Assam’. He has also been awarded by the former president Abdul Kalam Azad,in Mumbai. He was also among the 900 specialists who had assembled in France at the 7th global conference of the International Forum for Sustainable Development .He has been honoured by Sanctuary Asia too.


He is not one of those who will rest his laurels and relax; he has taken upon again to himself to transform the barren island of Mekahi into a green haven. He believes that each and every child should be compulsorily taught Environmental Science; that children are the future and our only chance to sustain this beautiful earth and the animals and birds living in it.


Hats off to this unsung hero’s dedication and efforts!



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