Orange County Kabini- Responsible Tourism initiatives

I am just back from a short stay in Orange County Resort, Kabini Campus. When I shared on FB that Orange County Kabini has several responsible tourism initiatives, few friends wanted details. That's why I prioritized this topic ahead of other posts. They (Orange County) are resort people with commercial interests- why would they be responsible? This is what you would probably be thinking. But then, many companies in travel and tourism space that I have experienced, Taj,  ITC group of hotels, Suryagarh, Narendra Bhawan and of course Orange County are fully aware of the need for conservation of natural resources, the need to ensure that they cause no harm to the environment while running their business. Unknown to the general public who perceive them as super expensive hotels for the rich and wealthy, these institutions are taking all possible steps to ensure that they do their business in least harmful way (if not zero harm). In this post, I am detailing my findings about Orange County Kabini’s initiatives towards Responsible Tourism. These initiatives cost money to set-up and run. It is often cheaper to do things in conventional way and not to care for environment- but still they do it, mostly voluntarily.
1 Drinking Water and avoiding plastic
Orange County Kabini has 29 Jacuzzi huts and 8 Pool huts. At its peak occupancy, that could be about 90 guests (2 adults and 1 kid per room on an average) plus an equal number of staff. With each individual consuming 3-4 litres of water per day (even more in summer), the usage of drinking water can be in the range of 600-800 litres per day. If packaged drinking water is to be used, this means 600-800 plastic bottles wasted every day. This is certainly not good for the environment. Because of this, OCR uses its own water purification unit and provides RO treated drinking water in each room.
Source of the water is from the borewells. This ground water is treated and purified in an in house water treatment plant. This plant even monitors daily consumption. If on a particular day usage is more than average, automated alerts are triggered, so that cause of excess usage can be detected (such as an open tap somewhere, or damage to piles etc) and corrected.

The purified water is sent to rooms, where it passes through a reverse osmosis (RO) unit to make it potable and made available for consumption. This whole process is cost intensive- to set up and to maintain- sometimes may cost more than the cost of buying bottled water, but it helps avoiding plastic and a big factor that got multiple awards for Orange County. Plastic is avoided in many other ways as well- no straws are provided with juices- they are served in glasses to be consumed directly. Paper or cloth is used in bathroom accessories, waste bin cover and so on. Newspaper holder is a Bamboo stem.
The consumed water is again treated and re-used for gardening purpose. A multi-level unit removes oils and other bigger objects from waste water and circulates it back for non-human touch use.

2. Use of Solar and Wind energy
Orange county operates a solar energy unit near its campus, power generated from here is fed into electricity board's grid. I am told they also have few wind towers in the forests of Karnataka which again feeds into EB grid.
3. Smart allocation of guest rooms
The guest rooms are split in 4 zones. In case of low occupancy, all guests are allocated rooms in say Zone 1 and 2. This will enable cut off power to remaining 2 zones, helping in conserving power. This was thought through 10 years ago when the resort was being designed, not introduced as an ad-hoc measure in recent years.

4.  Coconut leaf roofs
The top layer of all buildings in orange county Kabini, including main building, huts and common areas are covered with layers of Coconut leaves. These are replaced every year. Local people are hired to make fresh ones, providing them employment, old roofs are given to them for free for use as cover for cattle sheds or as firewood. A concrete roof would have been long lasting and cheaper but using coconut leaves made roof makes the campus lot more natural. Plus they keep the huts cooler, resulting in reduced AC usage.
5 Treating kitchen oil: Grease trap oil composting
Kitchen oil waste is hard to dispose off in a harmless way. Orange County Kabini is using a decompose pit to deal with it. The oil from kitchen waste is extracted during waste water treatment and is sent here. In the decompose pit, oil waste is mixed with microbes that help break the tough molecules. In about six months, the harmful oil waste gets converted into a healthy manure that can be used for agriculture purposes. This is very unique to orange county as most upscale hotels do not care to treat kitchen oil
6 Waste Management
Waste products from the resort are bifurcated into 4 categories. Even the guests are motivated to split waste into dry and wet even before they dispose. At the trash centre it is further split and dealt professionally. LED bulbs with harmful mercury is disposed off through a licensed operator in Mysore who disposes it off via landfill measure, if the bulb can’t be repaired or re-used.

7. Organic farming
OCR has a dedicated horticulture team, which grows a small quantities of organic vegetables in house. Some of the food items in the restaurant are made from these vegetables
8. Bio Gas Unit
A small bio gas unit uses vegetable wastes to generate bio gas, used for staff kitchens, reducing intake of commercial cooking gas by a few cylinders every month
9. Free cycle usage
Orange County Kabini has more than a dozen high quality cycles- BSA Montra and other premium brands that cost 20k upwards. Guests are encouraged to go for a ride in these- good for guest’s health, easy on the environment. I rode them on the banks of Kabini on two evenings. Lot more fun and flexible than being driven around in a motorized vehicle.
Staff use a green hand kart to ferry guest luggage and other stuff within the campus. Not even electric karts.

10 Tribal Dance
Every alternative evening, a tribal dance is performed for the guests of Orange County.  OCR Naturalists say the tribal youth are not very keen to upkeep their traditions and they are attracted towards modern world. With OCR giving them a platform to exhibit their traditional dances and the financial compensation that comes with it, is helping the tradition stay alive.
11 Interpretation centre, nature walks and night trails: OCR Kabini maintains a small area that displays the crucial information about biodiversity in the region, key details about various fauna and flora found in the region. A guided tour is provided to this place to help guests understand the geography they are holidaying in, better. Plus nature walks and night trails are conducted every day, to help interested guests understand the nature better.  If a guest returns with better understanding and appreciation of the nature and its significant, he/she is more likely to adapt more eco-friendly lifestyle reducing harm to environment in their daily life.

12 Trees: We are told the property had just 2-3 trees when it was bought over by the OCR. Soon after purchase several trees were planted, which are now giving a green cover to the campus, even in peak summer. Trees are not ornamental but real useful ones. There’re mango, cashew and other fruit bearing trees and many trees that provide fruits to birds. This has ensured that the campus has good collected of birds- just take a walk and you will find a few. I found these-Ibis, Parakeets and more, making the campus more lively and interesting.

OCR also has few other CSR initiatives such as sponsoring few staff for the school, paying for education of many village kids and so on.

In addition, as a guest we can also help contribute in many ways- opting to re-use bed linen for another day saves lots of water spent in its washing. Using less water and AC, segregating waste and not wasting food or drinking water are other ways every individual can do their bit. Yes, you would have paid top money to stay in a luxury resort, but that is no justification to waste natural resources.

Disclaimer: All information is as seen during my visit to Orange County Kabini or as explained to me during the responsible tourism guided tour activity. I do not have any reason to suspect the sanctity of these initiatives, but you may feel free to cross check. My stay was sponsored by all observations, analysis and opinions are my own.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas and concerns if any. Is there anything the holiday companies can do better? Have you identified any unique practices that help environment in any of your stays? Do comment. We can discuss.

More posts from Kabini: Activities at Orange County Kabini * Kabini -Nagarahole Safari pictures * Orange County vs Jungle Lodges * Birds spotted around Orange County, Kabini * OCR Pool Huts
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8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. These days many resorts are coming up with Responsible tourism intiatives. Good to see so many intiatives by Orange County - 2 trees to several 🌲 that's awesome

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  3. Water resource and solar energy are the most important initiative any hotels should consider. Glad to see a luxury resort is following responsible tourism beautifully :) Btw you look nice with the cycle outfit!

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  4. @Rutavi- Thanks for the compliments

    @Swati- Yes, I was also happy to learn about all these initiatives

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  5. http://www.rajwatertechnology.co.in/water-purification-plants.html#ro-water-purification
    Example of a reverse osmosis plant ,costs 1.2 lakh per unit which is dirt cheap when it comes to the operating costs for a resort of this size .Perhaps they will recoup the costs in a day !! .No commercial organisation will spend more than the returns -else they wont be able to sustain -simple business sense. No bailouts or amma canteens where the honest tax payers pay the price for the freebies.

    I am pretty surprised they draw water from borewells but dont have a simple focus on rain water harvesting .this year the drought is severe and they are drawing water from dead storage levels and summer has just started. of course with supreme court being blind and deaf - i am sure they will ensure that Karnataka dams will go dry under its caring and watchful eyes.

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  6. @The Wild
    Welcome back.

    There is set up cost and maintenance cost as well. When I checked with staff of Holiday Inn OMR, they said their corporate guests feel comfortable only if water is supplied in branded bottles, so they are unable to shift to RO. Cost economics aside, it takes a bold decision to say NO to plastic and explain the reasons behind it.

    With river and backwater right next to the resort, I am not sure how much big difference rain water harvesting will do (without rainwater harvesting water flows few hundred meters further into the river/backwater and will enrich ground water anyway. Am I wrong in this understanding? I am sure OCR will consider this option if it helps in any way.

    Having said that, this year has been particularly harsh for both people and animals in the Kabini region- with more n more water being released to TN, very little is left. The situation they used to face by end of May is being felt in mid- March. Tough time ahead

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