By Natalia Álvarez
On Majuli, one of the largest river islands in the world, located on the Brahmaputra River in northeast India, Jadav lives. In 1979, when he was just 17 years old, he found the remains of dozens of snakes on a sandbar that came there fleeing from the rising river; then, trapped in this place, they found no vegetation to take refuge from the sun's rays and they died in the sun. Then, Payeng went to the authorities of his country in dismay to suggest that they reforest the area, but in the face of the refusal, he began what would become his life project.
Thus, in the midst of what was once a vast expanse of infertile land, today there is a forest that covers an area of 550 hectares (the Chapultepec forest has 678), where 115 elephants find refuge for three months a year on their migration route; deer, tigers, vultures and other species also inhabit the place, which account for an interesting ecological recovery.
As the forest has grown, it has become increasingly difficult to protect it; the main threat: the human. “There are no monsters in nature, except man. Even tigers are not safe from man, ”he says when asked about his biggest challenges. Not only has he been a pioneer in the environmental remediation of this island ... Every time he can, in full use of the recent media exposure he has achieved, he proposes to the government of his country options to save Majuli, and since 1917 he has lost more than half of its surface due to erosion, to the extent that it could disappear in 15 or 20 years.
If a single person could plant a forest, what will the 150,000 that inhabit Majuli do if they unite to rescue it. Jadav Payeng assures that he will continue to look after his forest until his last breath.
Photo: Carlo Bevilacqua