In 1979, a teenager named Jadav “Molai” Payeng started planting trees along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in India’s Assam region. Floods during that time washed a number of snakes onto the sandbar. When 16-year-old Payeng found them, they had all died. So he alerted the forest department and asked they grow trees there, but they insisted that nothing would grow there. More than 30-years-later, that once-barren sandbar is a sprawling 1,360 acre forest that several thousands of varieties of trees and wildlife, including birds, deer, apes, rhino, elephants and even tigers, call home. Continue reading for more pictures and a documentary.

The forest is called “Molai woods”, named after its creator’s nickname, and was single-handedly planted by one Payeng, who is now 47. He’s dedicated his life to the upkeep and growth of the forest. He started living alone on the sandbar as a teenager and today, Payeng still lives in the forest, sharing a small hut with his wife and three children. Fortunately, he has a thriving side business selling cow and buffalo milk.

[Sources 1 | 2]