When Jadav “Molai” Payeng was only 16 years old, a terrible flood struck near his home in the Assam region of India. It left a large, lifeless sandbar in the Brahmaputra River. A sandbar is a ridge of sand built up by currents in a river or other body of water. Some snakes washed up on the sandbar. They did not survive. There were no trees to protect them from the sun. This made Molai very sad.
Molai decided to bring the sandbar back to life. He first planted bamboo there. Next, he planted seeds to grow other kinds of plants. He watered them every day. Soon, a forest of many kinds of plants was growing on the sandbar.
More than 30 years have passed and Molai’s forest is now about 1,360 acres. Some people think that it is the largest forest growing in the middle of a river. Many animals, such as birds, rhinos, elephants, and tigers live there. Some of them are rare animals that are in danger of dying out. Molai helps keep them safe.
People now call the forest “Molai Kathoni.” This means Molai’s woods. Molai still lives in the forest in a small home with his family. He sells cow and buffalo milk to pay for the cost of taking care of the forest. The Indian government is thinking about making Molai Kathoni a wildlife sanctuary. If so, Molai says he will find a new place to plant another forest.