आपली गोदावरी खरच मेली का? (Is our river Godavari, really dead?)

One of the youngest participants of the first Goda Parikrama asked – “आपली गोदावरी खरच मेली का?” (Is our river Godavari, really dead?)

This question raised multiple threads of inquiries, like – What exactly is a river? What is a living river? What is a dying river? Do we ignore or abuse rivers because we haven’t understood them?

Unlike the word ‘river,’ in reality, it is one of most ecologically and sociologically complex entity. To address the complexity of the river, a river can defined as – “a channel carrying freshwater, but a hydrological, geomorphic, ecological, biodiversity-rich,  landscape  level  system  that  serves  as a key  part  of the freshwater  cycle,  balancing dynamic  equilibrium  between snowfall, rainfall,  surface  water  and  groundwater,  and  provides  a  large number of social and economic services to the people and ecosystems all through its watershed”1.

But then the question arises – what is a living river? Or what are the characteristics of a healthy river? Ramaswamy R Iyer, who was one of the leading water experts of our country, outlined three essential features of the river – Aviralta or uninterrupted flow, Flow variation, and Nirmalta or absence of pollution – and without these, a river is no longer a river or is dead.

“Aviralta or uninterrupted flow: Flow connectivity of a river cannot be compromised. By leaving empty long stretches of river bed without the river, as in the case of hydroelectric projects, river identity is lost. Unconnected water bodies simply are no longer a river anymore.

Flow variation: Violent and destructive fluctuations in the water flow, where a river remains dry for 20-24 hours and encounters a 8 m water wall in the remaining 4 hrs, as in the case of run-of-the-river projects, can no longer be called a river.

Nirmalta or absence of pollution: If pollution level rises, the river ceases to be a river.”2

If we analyze the status of the Godavari in Nashik, as per the above mentioned outline, we will encounter a frightening reality that the Godavari is on the verge of dying or dead in some stretches.

Nonetheless, there is still hope left, only if, the citizens of Nashik begin worshiping and respecting Godavari, not only intangibly through rituals but also in materiality through their actions.

– Shilpa Dahake | Facebook



[1] http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Rivers_Legal_and_Institutional_Issues_in_India.pdf

[2] http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/what-river


News Reporter
I am an architect turned anthropologist. After finishing my Masters in Anthropology from University of Pune, I was working with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune under a project funded by UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Scheme, Government of Maharashtra. During which I was stationed in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra (which is predominantly a tribal region) as a Field Research officer. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India. My current research explores the interaction of the cultural-religious, the political-economic and the ecological dimensions of the river in Nashik city in Maharashtra. Broadly, investigating how the multiple perspectives of a natural resource overlap, contradict, challenge and support each other, thus shaping the urban landscape and producing socio-spatial inequalities.

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