Reconnecting with ‘Godavari’

Godavari River in Nashik, our palpable heritage, is suffocating under the burden of our waste. Meandering through various religious, political, and ethnic eras, today Godavari is degrading at a severe rate due to rampant urbanization, and administrative, social, and political ignorance towards her. The intention to transform this apathy into empathy emerged as an initiative called ‘Reconnecting with Godavari’ (Godavarishi Nate Joduya).

Multiple facets of our lives, ranging from religious, socio-cultural, economical to political, revolves around the rivers. Along with the body of the river, the land-water interface (or ‘riverscape’) plays a crucial role in the development of human settlements. Similarly, the Godavari riverscape of Nashik is more than just a water body; it is also a source of water, land, and public space. Numerous communities in Nashik are dependent on Godavari for their livelihoods. Further, there are multiple groups or individuals who are working on several urban issues in the city. Derived with a motivation of increasing public engagement and participation, the ‘Reconnecting with Godavari’ is an open platform inviting everybody to revive the long-lost sense of belongingness towards the Godavari, and create a network of people working or willing to work for the river and with the river.

‘Reconnecting with Godavari’ is a platform build to initiate a dialogue between multiple stakeholders, ranging from bureaucrats, politicians, academicians, journalists, activists, and several other sections of the city population, who are engaged with Godavari (in any form).

What is Citizen Participation and Engagement?

UN World Public Sector Report 2008 suggests, citizen participation:

“…implies the involvement of citizens in a wide range of policy-making activities, including the determination of levels of service, budget priorities, and the acceptability of physical construction  projects in order to orient government programs toward community needs, build public support, and encourage a sense of  cohesiveness within neighborhoods.”

(http://www.unpan.org/Directories/UNPublicAdministrationGlossary/tabid/928/language/en-US/Default.aspx)

UN DESA/DPADM suggests, “Citizen Engagement in public administration implies the involvement of citizens in decision-making process of the State–through measures and/or institutional arrangements – so as to increase their influence on public policies and programmes ensuring a more positive impact on their social and economic lives.”

(http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/egms/docs/2013/EmpowermentPolicies/Elia%20Armstrong%20presentation.pdf)

Process

We have conceptualized two activities under ‘Reconnecting with Godavari’ to initiate citizen engagement and participation:

Godavarishi Gappa-Tappa’ (Let us interact with Godavari): This happens fortnightly at Yashwant Rao Patangan, Godavari Ghat in Nashik. The idea is to make this discussion forum an impetus to create a continuous dialogue, amongst the city population, regarding several issues of Godavari. We hope that series of these brainstorming sessions will eventually give rise series of public projects or initiatives along the river.

Goda Parikrama’ (Circumambulation of the Godavari): This happens every second Sunday of the month, along the banks of the Godavari. Every walk is designed with a focus on a particular aspect along the Godavari. This walk has dual motive – firstly, it attempts to re-connect the city populations with their river, and secondly, the walk focuses on identifying, understanding, and critically analyzing the problem areas along the river.

 

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