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Ecotourism emerges in Rajasthan

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Travel Features >> Ecotourism emerges in Rajasthan

Ecotourism emerges in Rajasthan

June 18, 2012

Ecotourism is not new. It’s been pitched, pledged and passed by. It makes sense at any tourist destination, and is critical in ecologically fragile areas. However, such has been the hype around eco tourism that it also tends to numb the senses. But, as I hit the two-hour drive from Udaipur to Ranakpur in Pali district of Rajasthan, I am about to make a discovery. The six-month-old Mana Hotels Ranakpur, it turns out, is a delight – a responsible eco tourist resort doing business without being reckless. It is a one of its kind in the area, where plenty of resorts are coming up. In this rush, it is remarkable how they have built a beautiful, environmentally sustainable, friendly structure.

First, some perspective on the delicate and strange ecology where the Mana Hotels is located. The resort is built on the banks of the Maghai, a seasonal river inside the thick Aravalis in the Mewar region.It is not far from the desert, but is surprisingly green and has healthy water supply. But this is where it gets tricky. Any attempt to overexploit the area could hurt this beautiful oasis.

The Mana Hotels is an example of trying to retain the terrain as it stands. There are many layers to how the resort blends in with the environment, maintaining the beauty of its surroundings and leaving as little a mark as possible. It is a completely contemporary structure amid the haveli-obsessed resorts of Rajasthan. They have used traditional and modern wisdom in a unique way to make it ecologically sustainable.

For instance the use of local material – the stones excavated from the construction site have been used and are best suited to withstand the harsh Rajathan summers. One side of the triangular building is done with beautiful yellowish stone, which also adds to the resort’s aesthetic appeal. This is contrasted with sloping glass roofs to allow natural light. This reduces the electricity bills to a great degree because the lights don’t need to be switched on during the day in any part of the hotel. They have however pasted perforated films on glass to soften the light. This, in turn, creates a beautiful traditional jaali pattern.

Nonetheless, in spite of all the clever designing, it is impossible to sustain without air-conditioning in the Ranakpur heat which is slightly less intense than in the rest of Rajasthan. The hotel is centrally air-conditioned but uses an innovative system to save energy with the air being redirected to an underground network of designed ducts to naturally cool air and reduce the load. The sloping roof is also perfect for solar panels that would generate the resort’s own power which they plan to implement it in the near future.


Since the complex is not far from the riverbed, plenty of river stones were also recovered from the site and used in the landscaping of the complex. One has to see it to realise how this has helped in beautifying the place. And that is not all. It serves a dual purpose. There is a proper water harvesting system in place with not a single drop of rain water being wasted in the complex.

Much of the fauna is also intrinsic to the land. Most of the beautiful trees around the resort are not newly planted. They have been cleverly included as part of the property. One of the outdoor dining areas, and star attractions of the resort, has been designed around an old Banyan tree, called Barh Court. The tree is more than 100 years old and, having grown in low pollution levels, is far more majestic than the scrawny trees in the city.

Talking about the dining area, there’s usually a feast for the guests. Although the hotel offers the usual continental, Chinese and Punjabi cuisine; the real thing is their Rajasthani thali perfected by their chef who believes in letting the taste of the basic ingredients come through, hence limiting the use of excessive spices.

Another part of ecologically friendly structure takes account of how many green miles your products travel before reaching the destination. This is another victory for the owners because most of the produce is local or from Udaipur and Jodhpur (for antiques and decoratives). The labour employed while building the structure was local and 80 per cent of the staff is local.

Overwhelming though the resort is, you have plenty to see around. Ranakpur is famous for its exquisite Jain temples and the main Ranakpur temple is barely 200m from the resort. One can also visit the nearby Kumbhalgarh Fort, where Maharana Pratap was born. The fort boasts of a 36km long wall around it, the second longest in the world after the Great Wall of China. They also arrange for jungle safaris. You can easily catch sight of wild boar, langur, Neelgai, deer and maybe a shy leopard. They have also started what they call village safaris, where they drive you around traditional tribal villages of the region. A guide also helps you interact with the villagers, if you so wish.

For anywhere between Rs 7,000 and Rs 9,000, the resort with 49 rooms offers a range of options for singles, couples, family and groups. The best time to visit is the monsoons as you can see the Maghai in full flow and the forest in all its glory.

- Parul Abrol

About the author: Parul Abrol is an Independent Journalist based out of New Delhi. She has worked with the Hindustan Times and IANS among other organisations. Her articles have been published in The Caravan, Tehelka, Financial World, and MediaVoice. She writes on politics and issues related to development and society. Reach her at parul.abrol@gmail.com




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