Case Study: JADHAV PAYENG

Jadhav ‘Mulai’ Payeng belongs to the ‘Mishing’ tribe (one of the largest ethnic groups of Assam). He used to live in the forest ‘Mulai Kathoni’ at Aruna Chapori, with his wife and three children where his only source of income was selling milk. (He recently moved to his ancestral village in Jorhat District for the sake of his children’s education). ‘Mulai Kathoni’ - the name of the forest was given by the Government of Assam, and it is called rightly as he was the one who helped in creating it.

The journey to ‘Mulai Kathoni’ (Kathoni translates to forest in Assamese) begun when Jadhav, in 1979, then a 19-year old ordinary individual observed that due to lack of trees, plenty of heat-struck snakes died in the banks of Brahmaputra River, after a ood had hit Assam. When he asked the elders of his village what could be done to save them, they said that there is nothing he could do alone as the animals had lost their habitat and the only way to help would be by bringing the forests back. Payeng then approached the Forest Deparment if trees could be grown in the banks. The Forest Department replied by saying that nothing would grow in the banks besides bamboo, and they also added that it was a dicult task to carry out. Payeng took up on himself to painstakingly carry out bamboo plantations in one of the riverine islands of Brahmaputra. In the year 1980, he joined as a labourer in ‘Project Aruna Chapori’ which was initiated by the social forestry division of the district of Golaghat situated nearly ve kilometers away from Kokilamukh in Jorhat District, Assam. After the completion of the 5-year project, Payeng remained in the forest and continued to plant saplings to the site. He also managed to look after the site which was slowly being converted into a healthy forest itself. Today, the same forest - ‘Mulai Kathoni’ is more than 5.5 sq.km and is larger than Central Park, New York. In 2012, Payeng was honored by the then Vice-Chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, as - ‘The Forest Man of India’. He was later awarded the ‘Ecological

Restoration Award’ by Balipara Foundation in 2013.

Social Impact: Jadav has become an inspiration for the current generation on how a single individual’s contribution can be inuential enough to bring about positive change in the environment. Economic Impact: Jadav’s contribution did not have a direct economic impact, but his role in creation of the ‘man-made forest’ has helped in the development of ecosystem services, value of which is unmeasurable quantitatively to mankind.

Ecological Impact: The Forest Jadav helped grow; ‘Mulai Kathoni’ provides shelter to atleast three rhinoceros and multiple other ungulates. It is also home to more than four Bengal Tigers (Panthera tigris). A herd of 150 elephants are known to regularly visit the Mulai forest each year. The avian diversity of Mulai forest is quite diverse with a good population of vultures. The forest is also home to thousands of trees among which are arjun, valcol, gulmohur,ejar, himolu, mojkoroi, and hilikha are noteworthy.

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