Do you know what is Eco on Johnson's eco-friendly houseboat? Johnson’s environmentally friendly houseboat has an inboard engine (noise free-non-pollutant). The bathroom is fitted with a bio-tank. No plastic is sold on board. Power for the eco-friendly CFL lamps/bulbs and fan is derived from the boat’s engine using invertors/alternator method, with storage batteries

Solar panels – green wash?

Since the power can be derived from the engine itself, it does not make sense to buy solar panels. Its just additional expense. Some of the bigger companies put them in their boats to lead gullible tourists to believe its an eco-friendly houseboat. Its not. Its what they now call- green wash.

Eco-worthiness of an Alappuzha houseboat (Green palm certified, Gold certified etc.) is limited to what is viable here. The Government has finally woken up and installed waste disposal units – though there are still plenty of houseboats out there without licences and no waste or pollution control certificates.

All the staff who work on his boat hail from the villages off the backwaters. Newspaper clippings of climate change articles are kept on board to remind guests of its adverse impact.

Responsible tourism tips for a Kerala house boat tour

Johnson believes that tourism in any form is not environmentally healthy, whatever fancy words you cloak it in- sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, eco-tourism, et al. There is so much plastic being dumped into the backwaters in Kerala, that unless the government takes action soon, there may not be much of the beautiful lakes, lagoons, and waterways left in a couple of decades. Sadly, Kerala tourism or the Kerala government, as of yet, has not even introduced proper waste disposal units. On the other hand, the land value in Kerala’s backwater properties has gone up many fold since house boats started plying here. Many houseboat operators employ staff from the villages off the backwaters. So it has increased property value, and along with it, development of the villages. And of course, it has also generated employment.

Here are tips on how to be a responsible tourist on a Kerala houseboat cruise

Do not throw pens or sweets to children along the backwaters, even if they come scrambling up along the canal banks shouting for it. Why teach children to get something for nothing, at an early age.

Try to be a little subtle or less obvious while taking photographs of the villagers. How would you like it if a tourist visiting your country takes snaps of you hanging out your washing, or going about your daily chores in your home..

Insist on your houseboat operators to provide drinking water in cans. It is available now. Some let their staff sell plastic drinking water bottles to their guests to make extra money...

Dress responsibly. While sunbathing or swimming, do it in places where it is less populated.

Johnsons Column on Alleppey backwaters pollution.

Some of my guests point out the environmental degradation (inspired by some guide book author) of Kerala's backwaters caused by pollution of houseboats. While it is true, has anyone thought about the amount of plastic that goes to the lakes of Alleppey or the countryside in India through tourists' penchant for plastic drinking bottles? Many guesthouses and houseboats including mine offer hygienic drinking water in cans where guests can refill their plastic bottles. However not many bother to do it. Yo, while I am at it, how about the 350 years of industrial revolution in the western world that is causing climate change in the world, and continue to do so? Should not everyone be more concerned about that than a small corner of India??