A man in his mid-50s grew a huge forest on a sand bar in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam's Jorhat district. The 30-year-long effort of Jadav Payeng, known among local people as 'Mulai', to grow the woods, stretching over an area of 550 hectares, has been hailed by the Assam Forest Department as 'exemplary'.
Mulai began work on the forest in 1980 when the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori 5km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district. Mulai not only looked after the plants, but continued to plant more trees on his own effort slowly transforming the area into a big forest.
The forest, known in Assamese as "Mulai Kathoni" or Mulai forest, houses around four tigers, three rhinoceros, over a hundred deer and rabbits besides apes and innumerable varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures. It has several thousand trees among which are valcol, arjun, ejar, goldmohur, koroi, moj and himolu. There are bamboo trees too covering an area of over 300 hectares.
A herd of around 100 elephants regularly visits the forest every year and generally stay for around six months. They also gave birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent times. Mulai, an avid nature lover, has constructed a small house in the vicinity of the reserve and stays with his family. He earns his living by selling milk of cows and buffaloes he has kept. Mulai has one regret, though. The state government has so far not provided any financial assistance to him to carry out his 'mission' except for the Forest Department which from time to time supplies him saplings for plantation.