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Taming Godavari River: Navigating through religious, developmental, and environmental narratives

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Exploring the production and the social construction of Godavari riverscape in Nashik, this article presents a case of ongoing socio‐ecological transformations in the Indian cities. This case‐study aims to contribute to the burgeoning scholarship on the political ecology of urban water bodies in India and expands the political ecology of waterscapes by engaging with the cultural politics of water. The Godavari, one of the seven sacred rivers in Hinduism, meanders through the fast urbanizing and a religious city of Nashik. Thousands of pilgrims converge every day along the Godavari in the Nashik and millions throng during the Hindu pilgrimage festival of Kumbh Mela—one of the biggest congregations in the world. Here, religious tourism coupled with modernist developmental agendas is rapidly (re)shaping the river into a prized religious and real estate commodity while ignoring the river ecology. This article nuances the perception, investigation, and management of rivers by examining three interrelated questions: How do the performance, circulation, and contestation of the multiple narratives surrounding the river transform its ecology and relationship with the city? In what ways do notions of control and exploitation of rivers normalize in the collective conscience of the societies? How do social relations (re)create and configure the emotional ties with the river in public imagination?

This article is categorized under:

  • Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
  • Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Map of Nashik highlighting Godavari River and location of Godavari Ghats (inset: The Godavari as it traces its course through the Indian peninsula. Black regions indicate river catchment/the drainage basin of the Godavari)
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Concretized riverbed of Godavari exposed due to drought of 2016
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Ongoing Godavari riverfront development project
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Concretized Godavari Ghats of Nashik
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Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015
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Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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