Walking along the banks the Godavari River in Nashik, reveal the politics of land and water that is evolving the socio-nature in the city. The river is deeply embedded in the past, present, and the future of the Nashik city. I have observed series of events before and after Kumbh Mela 2015 in Nashik. Just a month before the inauguration of the Kumbh Mela, Godavari riverscape was in the focus. Everyday cleaning drives were happening along the ghats. Police protection was given to the Godavari River. Citizens of Nashik were visiting the Godavari ghats in numbers to enjoy the rejuvenated riverscape*.
Soon after the hue and cry of Kumbh Mela, the issue of water scarcity emerged in the city. This resulted in series of protests by the local farmers obstructing the release of water from the Gangapur Dam to the downstream dams in Marathwada region. The water scarcity was building up since the Kumbh Mela, even then the administration reserved water of Gangapur Dam for the Kumbh and not for the city dwellers. This situation worsened in 2016, when the Godavari turned pitch dry. In the span of a year (2015-2016), the city of Nashik experienced extreme conditions of drought and floods. The dry spell of the Godavari river was followed by flash floods in August 2016.
These sequence of events reminds of a verse from a Marathi Poem titled ‘स्वये गोदावरी आली’ (By herself, the Godavari came) was written by Prof. Ram Shewalkar:
“नाही कधीच मी केले हिच्या पात्रामध्ये स्नान,
नाही भक्तीभावनेने हिचे घेतले दर्शन !
तरी नवल ! आजला उरी घेऊन असोशी
स्वये गोदावरी आली माझ्या हट्टी पायांपाशी”
Which roughly translates as:
I have never bathed in her side,
Never perceived her with the devotion of a worshiper!
However amazed! Today with the remnant of discontent,
Herself Godavari reaches my stubborn feet.
Prof. Shewalkar wrote this poem while he was stuck in his office in Nanded during the severe flooding of Godavari River in 1969. The coming of Godavari water till the doorsteps of his office inspired him to write this poem.
*Riverscape is a concept which highlights the intersection of cultural and ecological processes along the rivers.