‘Forest man of India’ Jadav Payeng calls for stronger integration of environmental studies in the National Education Policy

Published : January 28, 2021 19:42 IST

Jadav Payeng at the BCPL Township in Barbaruah, Dibrugarh. Photo: Abhimanyu Hazarika

Jadav Payeng initiating the plantation drive under way at the township. Photo: Abhimanyu Hazarika

Urging a strong sense of ecological awareness among today’s citizens, Padma Shri awardee Jadav Payeng called for constant engagement with the environmental sciences as part of India’s education policy. Advocating the need for people to constantly and practically engage with nature from pre-school to university days, he pitched for the current educational framework to have greater emphasis on respecting biodiversity.

Payeng, who has earned the title ‘Forest Man of India’, made these remarks during a plantation drive held in the Herbal Garden of the Brahamaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited Township at Barbaruah in Dibrugarh, Assam. The drive was part of the ‘Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav’ guidelines of the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. 

He spoke of the current status of 550 hectares forest (named Molai) he had himself planted on a sandbar of the Brahmaputra River. “Efforts are under way to cooperate with the State Forest Department in merging it with the Kaziranga National Park, to help maintain the ecology.”

On the legality and morality of evicting indigenous people from forest/national park areas (a recurring development at Kaziranga), Payeng said, “Keeping people away from residing in forests is necessary to prevent poaching, which has reduced from previous years now. As far as eviction is concerned, it has to be balanced with the developmental welfare agendas of the government, as the revenue it earns from the national parks if used well can stop people from encroaching forest lands.”

Saying he has asked the State for afforestation on empty fertile lands on a priority basis, Payeng emphasised the importance of this in the face of the population boom and its side effects; increased encroachment and deforestation of pristine forests. He added that institutional support was also needed for this, and that schools and colleges should proactively build and maintain the vegetation around their campuses.

To a question on the role of youth in maintaining ecology, Payeng said they can start by planting trees instead of cutting cakes on birthdays. He also called on the residents of Assam to help make the State attractive for foreign tourists who appreciate biodiversity. 

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