Jorhat, some 350 km from Guwahati. When the waters receded, Payneg (who was 16 at the time) noticed the reptiles had died due to a lack of forestry.
“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,” said Payeng, who is now 47, to the The Times of India.
Payeng chose to live on the sandbar, starting a life of isolation as he began work to create a new forest. Planting the seeds by hand, watering the plants in the morning and evening, and pruning them when required, he cultivated a huge natural reserve. 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 recalled.
Over the years, the reserve has seen a huge variety of flora and fauna blossom on 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 . Unfortunately, locals reportedly killed a rhino which was seen in his forest, something that Payeng clearly disapproves of. ”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?”Read more: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants 1,360 Acre Forest | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building