| Jadab Payeng |
Jorhat, March 11: Jadab Payeng, the man credited with creating a forest on his own, has become an inspiration for Dispur. The education department is planning to take students of high and higher secondary schools to the forest developed on a Brahmaputra sapori (sandbar), off Jorhat, on March 21 — World Forestry Day.
The mini forest, known as Mulai kathoni, has been developed by the unstinted efforts of Jadab Payeng, popularly known as Mulai, over the last three decades at Karuna sapori, 20km northwest of Jorhat.
He is the self-appointed keeper of a 300-hectare woodland, now home to several species of bird, hog deer, spotted deer, rabbit, fox, Royal Bengal tiger, elephant, rooster, many species of snakes and a visiting wild herd of buffaloes. As the forest has several small beels (water bodies) migratory birds, too, flock here during winter.
Payeng has been honoured with many national and international titles and awards, the prominent among them from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, with title of “Forest man of Assam” on Earth Day (April 22) last year.
“Jadab can become an inspiration for schoolchildren in our effort to spread awareness to protect the environment and conservation of wildlife,” the inspector of schools (Jorhat), Kamal Jyoti Gogoi, said.
Gogoi said there was a strong need to sensitise young minds about conservation of environment and wildlife since the man-animal conflict has become a major problem in recent times.
He said last year’s Gyan Yatra (educational tour to prominent institutes and places) when the students from several districts of the state were sent to to Gibbon wildlife sanctuary at Mariani in the district — the only sanctuary to be named after the only apes found in India — was very successful. The students enjoyed the experience and Dispur appreciated the programme.
“So we have decided to take the students of all government high and higher secondary schools located along the Brahmaputra to the forest developed by Payeng,” Gogoi said.
He said students of schools along the river bank needed to know about conservation as the areas along the bank fall in an elephant depredation zone where the man-animal conflict was increasing.
“A visit to the forest in the midst of the Brahmaputra, taking them for a walk inside it and an interaction with Payeng is expected to inspire the children,” Gogoi said, adding that students would be asked to pen down their experiences.
Payeng said everyone was welcome to his place and children would definitely enjoy their experience in the forest. Payeng has spotted a group of about 60 vultures in his forest for the last two months.
He said since 2010, he had spotted two Royal Bengal tigers along with cubs. Last month, he saw pugmarks of tigers in the forest almost regularly.
Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar said Payeng’s effort is a “wonderful example” of conservation in a non-forest area for which the villager has earned accolades from within and outside the country. A visit by students will be a positive step, he added.