The man who made a forest

The Times of India
Sunday



Way back in 1953, French author Jean Giono wrote the epic tale The Man Who Planted Trees. It seemed so real that readers thought the central character, Elzeard Bouffier , was a living individual until the author clarified he had created the person only to make his readers fall in love with trees. Assam's Jadav Payeng has never heard of Giono's book. But he could be Bouffier. He has single-handedly grown a sprawling forest on a 550-hectare sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra. It now has many endangered animals, including at least five tigers, one of which bore two cubs recently.

The place lies in Jorhat, some 350 km from Guwahati by road, and it wasn't easy for Sunday Times to access him. At one point on the stretch, a smaller road has to be taken for some 30 km to reach the riverbank. There, if one is lucky, boatmen will ferry you across to the north bank. A trek of another 7 km will then land you near Payeng's door. Locals call the place 'Molai Kathoni' (Molai's woods) after Payeng's pet name, Molai.

It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

Jorhat Map — Satellite Images of Jorhat

original name: Jorhāt
geographical location: Jorhat, Assam, India, Asia
geographical coordinates: 26° 45' 0" North, 94° 13' 0" East

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Google Local — Jorhat mapWelcome to the Jorhat google satellite map! This place is situated in Jorhat, Assam, India, its geographical coordinates are 26° 45' 0" North, 94° 13' 0" East and its original name (with diacritics) is Jorhāt. See Jorhat photos and images from satellite below, explore the aerial photographs of Jorhat in India. Jorhat hotels map is available on the target page linked above.

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"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage . I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested," says Payeng, now 47.

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Leaving his education and home, he started living on the sandbar. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, Payeng willingly accepted a life of isolation. And no, he had no Man Friday. He watered the plants morning and evening and pruned them. After a few years, the sandbar was transformed into a bamboo thicket. "I then decided to grow proper trees. I collected and planted them. I also transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil's properties . That was an experience," Payeng says, laughing.

Soon, there were a variety of flora and fauna which burst in the sandbar, including endangered animals like the one-horned rhino and Royal Bengal tiger. "After 12 years, we've seen vultures. Migratory birds, too, have started flocking here. Deer and cattle have attracted predators," claims Payeng . He says locals recently killed a rhino which was seen in his forest at another forest in Sibsagar district.

Payeng talks like a trained conservationist. "Nature has made a food chain; why can't we stick to it? Who would protect these animals if we, as superior beings, start hunting them?"

The Assam state forest department learnt about Payeng's forest only in 2008 when a herd of some 100 wild elephants strayed into it after a marauding spree in villages nearby. They also destroyed Payeng's hutment . It was then that assistant conservator of forests Gunin Saikia met Payeng for the first time.

"We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar. Locals, whose homes had been destroyed by the pachyderms, wanted to cut down the forest, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead. He treats the trees and animals like his own children. Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in," says Saikia. "We're amazed at Payeng. He has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero."

Help from the government wasn't forthcoming, though. It was only last year that the social forestry division took up plantation work on a 200-hectare plot.

Meanwhile, Congress MP from Jorhat, Bijoy Krishna Handique, took interest and said he would moot a proposal to the Centre to declare the area a conservation reserve under provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Payeng would be happy.

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Bohol Forest - 2km Mahogany Forest

Bohol Forest

The Bohol Forest is a man-made mahogany forest stretching in a two-kilometer stretch of densely planted Mahogany trees located in the border of Loboc and Bilar towns. Before and after this man-made forest are the naturally grown forests of Loboc and Bilar which are thick with a kaleidoscope of green foliage, different species of trees and giant ferns lining the road.

The man-made forest stands out because of the uniformity in height of the big trees, the spread of its branches, thickness and design of leaves. Seedlings abound around the older trees. Trunks, some thick and others just a few months old, grow resplendently straight up towards the sky which is obscured by the branches and the thick leaves.

Bohol Forest

The terrain from both side of the road goes up; to I don’t know how high. What you see are only the Mahogany trees that look like thousands of sentinels guarding the road, standing erect. No other vegetation is growing among the Mahogany trees. One only sees the brown trunks stretching forth from the earth and the green canopy above. And that’s what makes them look so attractive!

The roots of the trees are beautiful to look at as they protrude from the ground and crawl over boulders and contour of the land, even reaching the sides of the road. Looking at them gives you the creeps. Like tentacles of a giant octopus, the roots seem to reach out and grasp the unwary passersby, as what happened in the “Lord of the Rings” movie.

Bohol Forest

When you enter the forest, one will feel the abrupt change in temperature, especially during summer or hot season. It is hot outside the forested area, but once under the overhanging trees, one is refreshed by the cool breeze. This mountain area seldom sees the sun shine and most often than not, it rains here. Local folks attribute these to the presence of the dense forest.

The Loboc-Bilar man-made forest plays host to many visitors, locals and foreigners alike who take time to view it from the road and take pictures. The Metro Manila filmmakers often use the forest as a backdrop for some of their action films. Other groups go hiking thru the woods and up the mountain. Mountain bikers often use the wide asphalt road that traverse the forest aside from the day-to-day buses and public transport that ply between the towns.

Bohol Forest

This rainforest is about 20 kilometers from Tagbilaran City. Plying the interior road from the capital, one passes the town of Loboc and what the Boholanos call the “tina-i sa manok” (chicken’s intestines) which refers to the winding road up the mountain of Loboc going towards Bilar.

Leaving the populated barrios behind, the road up the mountain is steep and on one side, a deep ravine which are all densely forested. The steep and winding road plus the ravine does not hinder the local drivers. They maneuver the road with the agility and speed of experts; a feat acquired thru constant practice.

After the forest, one passes two towns, the town of Bilar and Batuan, and arrives at Carmen town where the famous chocolate hills are sighted. Carmen is where you find hundreds of chocolate hills which are uniform in shape and size. A complex has been put up by the local government on top of the two highest hills in the area.

The chocolate hills are the main Bohol tourist attraction. But before you get there, one passes the famous Baclayon church (the oldest church of Bohol), the Loboc church (the 2nd oldest church), the Loboc river, and then the man-made rainforest. One cannot help but be awed by such grandeurs!


Bohol Man-Made Forest
The Man-Made Forest in Bohol is a two-kilometer stretch densely planted of Mahogany tress located in the border of Loboc and Bilar towns. The man-made forest stands out because of the uniformity in height of the big trees and the thick bushes which almost prevents the sunlight to pass through and in return causes the abrupt change in the temperature. You will be greeted by the cool breeze once inside the Man-Made Haven.

The Man-Made Forest in Bohol is a two-kilometer stretch densely planted of Mahogany tress located in the border of Loboc and Bilar towns. The man-made forest stands out because of the uniformity in height of the big trees and the thick bushes which almost prevents the sunlight to pass through and in return causes the abrupt change in the temperature. You will be greeted by the cool breeze once inside the Man-Made Haven.