By Darpan Singh
Most of the 32 five-star hotels in Delhi, which were notoriously big polluters and guzzlers of water and energy, have fallen in line following a sustained, three-year campaign by the Capital’s pollution watchdog, claims a government report.
The campaign that began in mid-2012 is starting to show results: five million litres of fresh water that’s good enough for a population of 50,000 is being saved every day in a city which perennially faces water crisis, more severely in summers.
The collective water consumption at these luxury hotels has come down from 15 MLD (million litres a day) to 10 MLD, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has said. These hotels together spewed 10 MLD of untreated sewage.
They have set up clean-up plants or enhanced the capacity of existing ones, and are re-using — for non-potable purposes — a substantial part of this waste-water in and around their premises, a DPCC report says.
The cleaned-up waste water is being used for cooling towers, AC plants and in parks and toilets.
Earlier it was being pushed down the storm drains, contaminating soil and water, and wasting fresh water for non-drinking purposes.
But there are some who are still violating environmental norms.
Reacting to a DPCC inspection reports, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has in two orders last month fined (from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 9 lakh in each case) nine hotels for non-satisfactory rainwater harvesting.
Storage of rainwater is mandatory for such buildings; non-installation of required systems wastes millions of litres of precious water every monsoon.
The implantation of the Green Hotels Guidelines that the DPCC put in place in 2008 for storage of rainwater and installation of waste water clean-up plants was not a smooth sailing because of the influence that the hospitality sector wields.
Action could begin only in 2012 when DPCC chief Sanjiv Kumar showed some intent.
“It was not easy. We also sent closure notices to five of these hotels for grave violation of environmental norms. Time has come to target other sectors which guzzle water mindlessly,” says DPCC’s environmental engineer Siddhartha Gautam.
Though no hotel was ever shut, a strong message was conveyed.
DPCC officials kept meeting the hoteliers; they even conducted a workshop for them.
Finally on June 3, 2013, a total of 32 signed an MoU with the city government and agreed to implement the green guidelines.
The green guidelines also mandate these hotels to install systems for solar water heating, composting of organic waste and gas-based boilers.
“People enjoy the trappings of luxury at these hotels. But the right mood and ambiance, with lighting, cooling, pools and fountains also guzzle water and energy and pollute the environment,” says Gautam, who is also a research scholar at the Jamia Milia Islamia .
When the pact was signed, 16 hotels did not have dedicated clean-up plants.
And as many as 14 did not have solar heating systems.
“Most of these deficiencies have been set right. As the NGT order suggests some work needs to be done in case of rainwater harvesting. We’re at it,” he says.
Environmentalist Mahendra Pandey, however, blames the DPCC.
“Had the pollution-control safeguards been verified sincerely during issuance of permits and clearances, things would not have come to such a pass,” he says.
The electricity consumed by one hotel is roughly the requirement of 600 households.
That’s also come down because of use of solar heaters and other equipment.
“There’s a lot one can do, like install low-flow shower heads, use light emitting diode lighting or switch to drought-resistant plants in gardens,” said a senior official.
“All hotels will have to use bio gas, and solar energy to save electricity,” he said