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This is one of the most inspiring stories on the power of one, of how one regular person can change the world and inspire others to do the same.

At 16, environmental activist Jadav “Molai” Payeng saw hundreds of dead snakes, scorched to death by extreme heat on drought-stricken banks of Majuli Reserve—the world’s largest river island located in the Brahmaputra river in India.

He knew at such a young age that someone had to do something, so in 1979, without shade to escape the heat, all animals would have eventually died. So at 16-years old he started planting a tree sapling a day in the barren soil.

Now over 40 years later, his forest covers 1,390 acres—approximately the size of 15 football stadiums. Jadav left behind his formal education to give all his attention to the forest.

Payeng began by planting bamboo and then moved onto other species. At first planting trees was time consuming until the trees started providing the seed themselves. As his forest grew dense, so did the amount of inhabitants. Soon, the forest was filled with hundreds of species of birds, with deers, rhinos and tigers, and even included a herd of elephants straying into his forest three months out of the year.

Jadav Payeng hopes that if the developing countries come forward to take appropriate measures to protect the environment, the balance of nature in the world will be restored.

Now he’s working with the Mexican government on a massive plantation project.

Source: One Earth