If you are concerned about your carbon footprint, be assured that your holiday at Savista will place a minimum strain on the planet’s resources.
The Savista haveli has been restored with locally produced, energy-conserving building materials, drawing on the skills of hereditary masons. These masons helped source specific rooftop bricks – known for their thermostat/insulation properties – from far-off villages, where a few households still practice this dying art of brick production.The external walls and roofs are all in white, designed to produce an ‘albedo effect’, a small contribution to countering global warming.
The trees and aromatic shrubs on the estate – lime, guava, pomegranate, neem, khejri, gulmohur, chameli, champa, parijat, hibiscus and others – are all local varieties, known for their hardiness and low water requirement. The estate is kept green through sprinklers and drip irrigation. The aesthetic and eco-friendly swimming pool doubles up as an irrigation resource, making it possible for the pool water to be freshly refilled in part on a daily basis. All water needs at Savista are met from groundwater that is pure and sweet and fit to drink. Recharge wells ensure that excess runoff is harvested, while rooftop and courtyard rainwater is harvested using a gravity-based system of water supply/drainage pipes.
Fallen leaves and farm and kitchen wastes are recycled for the preparation of manure using compost pits. Farmyard manure using cow/buffalo dung supplements the manure used for crops and gardening.
Energy conservation is a high priority at Savista. Solar roof panels heat water for bathroom and kitchen use. The haveli uses LED (energy-saving) bulbs for all its lighting requirements, supplemented by locally manufactured candles. During winter, pruned twigs and logs from Savista’s trees are used for heating, lighting bonfires in the courtyard and in the open-air dining area, and for fireplaces in the dining room, bar and a few select guest rooms.
Socially responsible destination:
Savista’s social inclusion policy takes several forms. Most of the housekeeping and farm staff are drawn from the surrounding communities, irrespective of caste or religious identity, and trained in modern skills. Where necessary, staff are provided with housing and food; alternatively, they are given transport to and from work. Local mechanics are used for maintenance of pumps, generators and other farm equipment.
Neighbouring farming families get free access to Savista’s freshly-mown grass for feeding their cows, whose milk is in turn bought back by Savista for its own requirements. Savista continues to uphold the traditional practice of permitting nomadic herders of camels, sheep and goats to annually harvest the leaves of its 100-odd khejri trees for use as animal fodder. No family in the area, irrespective of social position, is denied access to Savista’s water for household use should their own water source become unavailable temporarily.
Savista’s philosophy of socially responsible living stems from the social/political and spiritual heritage of its owners. An ancestor of the family in the mid-19th century chose to renounce his feudal patrimony and become a sanyasi (ascetic). In doing so, he exhorted his descendants to integrate a core set of philanthropic and spiritual values into their feudal lifestyle. There thus developed in these villages the tradition of a less-sharply-unequal feudal society. More recently at the time of India’s independence, the then family patriarch ensured that all the land of these two villages under his control was redistributed among the resident tenant population. He also took the leadership in dismantling many of the old norms of social inequality through example – endowing considerable amounts of land as ‘common properties’ for schools, temples, pastures, and social forestry projects, and empowering the dalit castes (erstwhile ‘untouchables’) through land ownership deeds. The result is that there is not a single household in this area that does not own land. The visitor will also find that the ubiquitous poverty and inequalities that India is infamous for are less acute here.