This man has been planting a tree every day since he was just 16 years old. Now, almost 40 years later, he has grown a forest that is larger than New York City’s Central Park.

Jadav Payeng is the Indian man who has nurtured 1,360 acres of forest on what was once a barren landscape devastated by erosion.

A father of three, he lives on Majuli, the world’s largest river island. As a teenager, he was mortified after witnessing hundreds of animals dying from drought amid the dwindling greenery on the island, so he resolved to plant one sapling every day.

He started with simple botanical powerhouses, such as bamboo and cottonwood. After almost four decades of growth, his forest is now inhabited by hundreds of elephants, Bengal tigers, rhinos, boars, deer, reptiles, and birds. Payeng says that he has lost count of how many trees he has planted – but he believes there are now hundreds of thousands of trees providing shade and shelter to the wildlife.

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“It’s not as if I did it alone,” Paying told NPR. “You plant one or two trees, and they have to seed. And once they seed, the wind knows how to plant them, the birds here know how to sow them, cows know, elephants know, even the … river knows. The entire ecosystem knows.”

Island locals used to call Payeng “crazy” for his ambitions, but since he was accidentally discovered by a wandering wildlife journalist in 2007, the “Forest Man of India” has been hailed as a civilian hero by the government and an internationally-recognized conservational role model.

Photos via Forest Man Film, Youtube

Payeng doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon, either – though he makes money selling cow’s milk in his nearby village, he wants to continue planting trees “until his last breath”. The botanical expert hopes to one day rejuvenate the entire island in Assam with 5,000 acres of trees.

“I see God in nature,” he told the news outlet. “Nature is God. It gives me inspiration. It gives me power … As long as it survives, I survive.”

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  1. I have always felt the same affinity for the trees as our natural environment as this guy feels – he looks so comfortable among them in contrast to the hot, smelly city just a couple of miles away ! What a contrast – this is how & where we are meant to be – the nearest thing to the Garden of Eden ! What a wonderful thing to do – I really hope that the seas do not rise enough to kill his creation ! My house too is in the trees, but I have all the comforts of a modern house too – so lucky – but it’s those trees that I appreciate – the dappled sunlight thru the bathroom window, the back deck with trees hanging down all around it – getting ready to have some cleared before I disappear, but reluctantly !!!

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