How the Nilgiris Geared Up for Sustainable Tourism

couple sitting in green valley appreciating nature

As firm believers of slow travel and sustainable tourism, we always make an effort to highlight the green initiatives. On our trip to Ooty, Conoor and Wellington, we observed the steps the authorities have taken to curb plastic pollution. And what a commendable job! Here is all about the Nilgiri Hills’ green revolution that sets an example of sustainable tourism for other states to follow.

Nestled in the Western Ghats of Southern India, the Nilgiri Hills have long been a haven of tranquility and natural beauty. However, the surge in tourism and human activities has posed a threat to the delicate ecosystem of this pristine region. Hence, in response to the growing environmental concerns, the Nilgiri Hills authorities have taken a pioneering step towards sustainable development. They have implemented innovative measures to curb plastic pollution and promote eco-friendly practices. Overall, this is an account from what we observed in Ooty, Conoor as Wellington. We are sure, the same is most likely practiced in other adjoining towns too.

1. Blanket Ban on Plastic Bottles:

One of the most commendable initiatives in the Nilgiri Hills is the complete ban on plastic water bottles. So, in a region where tourism is a significant contributor to the local economy, this move has been a game-changer. Just imagine strolling through the picturesque landscapes without encountering discarded plastic bottles marring the scenery.

Reusable water bottle at hotel in Conoor
Reusable water bottle at hotel in Conoor- A step towards sustainability

None of the shops in the Nilgiri Hills sell packaged drinking water or soft drinks, and hotels have eliminated the practice of serving bottled water in rooms and restaurants. Furthermore, this bold step not only prevents tons of plastic from entering the environment but also sets a precedent for other tourist destinations grappling with plastic pollution. We were pleasantly surprised to find hotels following the norms and serving water in re-usable jugs and bottles. As responsible tourists, we give a big thumbs up to this initiative because plastic menace is a reason to worry.

2. Installation of Water ATMs:

Water ATM in Ooty's botanical garden
Water ATM at Botanical Garden as a part of the green initiative

To address the absence of plastic water bottles, the Nilgiri Hills have embraced an ingenious solution – the installation of Water ATMs. These automated machines dispense clean drinking water at a minimal cost of Rs 5 for 1 liter. This sustainable alternative not only quenches the thirst of tourists and locals alike but also significantly reduces the environmental footprint. A total of 90 water ATMS were installed in the Nilgiri range including Ooty and Conoor. The installation of Water ATMs, which commenced in 2019, has garnered a positive response from both residents and visitors.

The Water ATMs not only contribute to environmental conservation but also support the local economy by providing a cost-effective and eco-friendly option. Undoubtedly, this initiative is a testament to the Nilgiri Hills’ commitment to balancing ecological responsibility with sustainable tourism.

3. Ban on Disposable Cups and Plates:

In addition to eliminating plastic water bottles, the Nilgiri Hills have taken a firm stand against disposable cups or plates, whether made of plastic or paper. Instead, hot beverages are served in glassware, steep cups, or clay cups. Even street vendors pack everything in paper bags and we couldn’t be happier! These proactive measures ensure that the hill stations remain pristine, free from the menace of non-biodegradable materials. We enjoyed sipping tea in tiny steel cups at major tourist spots of Ooty like Botanical Garden, tea factory, tea garden and tea stalls. Even food joints follow the norm strictly.

Holding steel cups in Ooty Tea garden
Adopting sustainable practices- Ooty Tea Garden

This ban on disposables is not just an aesthetic choice but a strategic move towards sustainable living. As a result, it encourages tourists and locals alike to embrace eco-friendly alternatives, fostering a sense of responsibility towards the environment. We must realize that convenience has brought us closer to calamity and harming the soil, water bodies and forest alike.

The future with sustainable tourism

While these initiatives in the Nilgiri Hills are indeed praiseworthy, they are just the beginning of a broader movement towards sustainable tourism and responsible environmental practices. Nonetheless, other Indian states and popular tourist destinations can draw inspiration from the Nilgiri model and implement similar measures to protect their fragile ecosystems.

In a world facing escalating environmental challenges, the Nilgiri Hills serve as a beacon of hope, proving that sustainable development is not just an option but a necessity. The question echoed in the concluding words is a call to action for everyone: If we don’t care for the environment, who will? The Nilgiri Hills stand as a testament to what can be achieved when a community decides to make a difference for the sake of its future and the planet.