This man planted a tree every day for 35 years and created a forest larger than Central Park

By Elizabeth Preske
August 09, 2018, 5:15:25 PM EDT

It may take a village to raise a child, but it only takes one man to plant a forest.

In 1979, 16-year-old Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng was devastated when he stumbled upon a pile of dead snakes, scorched to death by extreme heat on the banks of Majuli Island in Assam, India.

Due to erosion, Majuli — the largest river island in the world — has lost more than half its land mass in nearly 50 years. Scientists say the island could be gone in another 15 to 20, according to the award-winning documentary "Forest Man."

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The snakes, which came to the island by way of flooding from the Brahmaputra river, could find no shade to escape the heat.

When he saw the snakes, Payeng told NPR he knew he had to do something about it or else even humans might "have to die this way in the heat."

And so, with an unquestionable love for his homeland and the most admirable dedication, Payeng planted one sapling on the barren land every day for the next 35 years.

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