‘Initially my intention, just like that of any other hotelier, was to run the Holiday Home in such a way as to make it the best in Kodaikanal. During a Waste Management workshop (2018), I visited the Kodai garbage dump with Dr Rajamanickam, a core team member of Kodaikanal International School’s Centre for Environment and Humanity (CEH). It was then that I saw the flip side of tourism in the Princess of Hills,’ says Priyank Pradeep, co-proprietor of the Holiday Home Resort in Pambarpuram, one of Kodai’s older hotels.
With about 4000 plus hotels and resorts already on the list, new ones sprouting every other month and lakhs of tourists flocking to Kodaikanal, the amount of waste this floating population of visitors brings in has also increased – with far-reaching consequences for the hospitality sector and the town itself. 70–80% of the waste produced during peak season is hospitality associated waste. Amidst this mayhem, Pradeep initiated a waste management system at his establishment in 2018.
The Kodai Chronicle paid a visit, last month. The resort is set away from the town, next to dense shola forest but with blocks of buildings, restaurants, and chocolate and spice shops on either side of the road that leads to the property. The three-star establishment has 60 cottages ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 7,000 per night, which are sparsely spread across 12-acres amidst lush greenery and a swift-flowing stream that divides the area in two. A variety of adventure activities, a children’s park, a horticulture nursery, and sit-outs as well as a well-equipped banquet hall targets a wide demographic of people.
Pradeep, a fourth-generation proprietor and co-partner, recalls that his forefathers started this establishment in 1947, with an income of Rs. 8 per day (inclusive of accommodation, three meals and two snacks). After studying a Master’s in Hotel Management in Maharashtra, he took over the family business in 2016.
‘I grew up seeing only the natural beauty of Kodai. If we local residents do nothing about this, then who will? Hence the waste management project took shape and is running successfully,’ says Pradeep, explaining his system to The Kodai Chronicle.
The resort initiated basic segregation of waste by placing separate garbage bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste around the property; each was marked to separate dry and wet waste and to create awareness amongst the tourists. This graduated into the current system, which segregates paper, hard plastic, carton boxes, thin cardboard, oil / milk / curd packets, foil, polythene bags, PET bottles, broken glass and ceramics, tin and iron, and whole glass bottles. The municipality workers are called in once a week to collect the waste (about 100–150 kgs per week) from the resort, and the earnings (approx. 1000– 1500 rupees a week) from the sale of the waste are distributed equally amongst the support staff as an incentive for their effort.
On an average, the Holiday Home produces about 150 kgs of biodegradable waste per day (vegetable and fruit scraps from the kitchen and leftover food from residents of the resort). This is pulverised in a machine, and the soft paste is then let into the sewage channel.
Pradeep says his experiment with composting the biodegradable waste was not successful due to the weather conditions at Pambarpuram, which extended the process to about 5 to 6 months. This left behind a stench, the possibility of disease and a proliferation of rodents. `Sadly, we had to call off the project, but we will certainly implement it again very soon, after some alterations to our organic vegetable garden and horticulture nursery,’ says Pradeep. ‘We are also exploring the option of producing biogas from the pulverised waste.’
The non-biodegradable waste, measuring up to 500 kg per month, varies with occupancy and is segregated every day by support staff who are provided with sanitary gear, including a pair of gloves, gumboots, an apron, a mask and safety headgear. Pradeep appreciates the dedication of his support team `without whose work this waste management would not have been possible,’ he says.
`We have been a part of this waste management initiative since its birth, and we follow it like a ritual to the extent that we have started practising this at home as well,’ says Lilly Pushpam, who has been with the resort for six years. ‘Moreover, Priyank Sir distributes the income, about 500 rupees a month, from the sales to the support staff team. So that’s a bonus.’
Holiday Home put some other proactive measures in place, as well. A few months before one-time use plastics were banned in Kodaikanal, from 1 January 2019, the resort stopped using PET bottles to minimise their waste production and provided glass bottles with a message on them: `Pure and clean, like the Kodai air. RO purified water sealed and served, to protect nature from harmful single-use plastic bottles. We hope you enjoy your stay, knowing that the world is greener because of you’.
When asked about the response of tourists to his initiative, Pradeep replied, ‘Kodai is dependent on the hospitality sector and hence, we are compelled to compromise on some aspects of waste management, especially in relation to consumer behaviour. Despite having a decent inflow of educated tourists, most do not put the waste in the respective bins – labelled in two languages with images – placed in the rooms. So, we removed the extra bin, and the support staff did the segregation. In the long run we plan to conduct orientation and sensitise the guests to improve the system.’
Pradeep added that a workshop was conducted for about 20–25 hoteliers in 2018, just after he started with his waste management project. He told us he was successful in influencing the Kodai Club and the Golf Club to initiate responsible waste management systems. However, Pradeep believes that workshops are not very effective, and that personal outreach will have better results.
Krishna Rajendran, Secretary at the Kodai Club, confirms that the biodegradable waste is sent for composting on the campus; the non-biodegradable waste is given for recycling and wastewater is treated at the Sewage Treatment Plant. ‘None of our waste is sent to the dump yard,’ he added proudly.
’We started with bio-culture six months ago, where the compost is maintained at a constant temperature to quicken the decomposition process, which is necessary given the Kodai climate! The solid waste is segregated and sent to the municipality for further processing. Due to space constraints, we haven’t started with waste management yet. We are looking forward to initiate it at the earliest,’ Anubhav Bhan, general manager at Villa Retreat, another local hotel, told The Kodai Chronicle.
When one can become three, three can become more, and possibly someday all hotels will be inspired to take on similar initiatives. The successful continuity of the Holiday Home Resort waste management project is a beginning. It speaks for itself: to all Kodai-ites and in particular, to hoteliers.