The Lodge at Wah: Responsible Tourism Practices

14 Jan, 2022

The Lodge was built by the Prakash family specifically as a home to lead a wholesome, healthy lifestyle away from city life. While the Wah Tea Estate has been in the family since 1953, there was a general inclination to protect the natural beauty of the area. Thus, there begun a quest to protecting natural resources, using best practices, adopting local architectural style with local materials and craftsmen, ensuring no wastage of electricity and avoiding use of harmful chemicals.

The team at Lodge at Wah are from the local community and nearby villages and come with stories, experiences and anecdotes about their life in the region. Produce is sourced from the inhouse organic garden and selected local farmers who follow organic farming practices. Dairy is procured from the cowherd who lives behind the house, while raw and natural honey is sourced from a local apiary not far away along with spices, Himalayan rock salt and cold pressed cooking oils. Pickles and sauces are made either by the ladies on site or sourced locally from the village. Wheat is also grown within the Estate. The toiletries provided are made from natural ingredients, are filled in reusable ceramic dispensers and come from a small local business in reusable bulk containers. Guided treks and hikes are conducted by a company that employs young men from the villages who know the terrain and are happy to take you on untrodden paths.

Future plans include moving to renewable energy such as solar energy and increasing rain water harvesting to use the water in the tea gardens and the organic garden, where eventually they would like to grow even more fruits, vegetables and herbs to provide guests with 100% organic meals thus providing the farm to table experience. Rain water is harvested for use in the gardens and part of the tea estate. Guests are encouraged to keep showers short. Drinking water is provided in glass or copper bottles.

The Lodge has been built in the traditional ‘Gaddi’ or Kangra style of architecture. The Gaddi tribes built their homes using slate roofs and mud flooring. Materials used at the time of construction was sourced from less than two miles around the estate. Very little cement has been used during construction and its use restricted to largely the kitchen. Mud bricks made with mud extracted during the construction phase have been used for the main walls. In the summer, the mud walls keep the interiors cooler this reducing the need for use of air-conditioners. In the winter months, the mud retains heat from the energy efficient all-weather air-conditioners, and the double insulation in the wooden ceilings further trap the heat, therefore requiring them to be on for a few hours only. The large windows in the common room let in plenty of natural light and fresh air. Energy efficient appliances and lighting are used reducing electricity wastage. The wood used at the Lodge have a backstory. While walking through Palampur town, the distinctive aroma of pine wood led them to the Old Palampur Courthouse which was being demolished. The Prakash family jumped at the opportunity and brought the wood including roof lining details, banisters from witness stands and whole doors and windows.

The Lodge has taken the step to ensure harsh toxic chemicals are not used. The home was built without the use of these chemicals; instead, a natural white clay was used to add the white colour to the indoor walls. The wood is polished naturally with linseed oil and beeswax. The mosquito repellent is made in house with natural oils. There is minimal use of plastic and there is every attempt to reduce its usage and the idea is to move to a zero waste lifestyle. They have done away with plastic garbage bin liners are well and lined the bins with tin making it easy to clean and wash. Housekeeping uses soapnuts to clean floors along with essential oils to ward off insects and mosquitoes. Cling wrap has been replaced with beeswax wraps as well. Wet waste is turned in to compost which is then used in the gardens.

The tea gardens follow the same principles of no toxic chemicals and Wah Tea is wholly pesticide and weedicide free. Neem oil and chilli paste are used to get rid of pests naturally, biochar is being brought in to replace fertilizers and the tea waste is used as natural mulch material to increase productivity of the land.