grantees » Parineeta Deshpande-Dandekar

Parineeta Deshpande-Dandekar, India

Parineeta’s passion for water and ecology started at a very young age. Originally from Nashik, which lies at the origin of the mighty Godavari River in the Western Ghats of India, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, she says; ”I vividly remember the extremely beautiful as well as extremely dirty images of Godavari from my town. My father loved the river and instilled this love in me; I wanted to work with rivers for as long as I can remember!” Today, she works as an Associate Coordinator in the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. She is also a Trustee member of River Research Centre, Kerala, and is associated with India Water Portal and the Gomukh Trust. Parineeta focuses on monitoring her country’s use of water resources in its aggressive push for development and helping grass-root NGOs to research and advocate the fight against unsustainable projects.  Through her research, Parineeta initiates creative ideas within the larger discourse on water management, placed at various levels to try to ensure “that environmental flows, free-flowing rivers and community participation in decision making get the central place in the water discourse that they deserve.”

With the help of the JWH initiative grant, Parineeta conducted an indepth pilot analysis of the ecology and hydrology of the free-flowing Shastri River, including the communities which rely upon it. She saw first hand “how a living river is a literal lifeline of a region”. Her study was published and she presented it at the Western Ghats Group Conference and a lecture series on the rivers of India. Now, it is being used by the Ministry of Environment, and ultimately led to an invitation for her to undertake long-term ecological monitoring studies. Based on the experience she gained, she has co-authored a Primer of Environmental Flows, specifically for CSOs and communities. She learnt many a lesson from her coaches, about integrity, dedication, work ethic, time-management and effective lobbying.  She says: “I have learned that the most important thing is implementing research and putting it to action and not doing research for research’s sake. This has been an important lesson, as I was much inclined towards undertaking research than being more involved in the grassroots and policy level struggles.” She took these lessons in her stride, as she went on to support a citizens’ movement which succeeded in arresting the channelizing of the remaining stream stretches in Pune. She was also closely involved in the successful advocacy against a dam that was set to submerge 1000 hectares of forest. “[Before my work with JWHi], I would have used the term River management, but I hesitate to do so now. I have realized that humans do not have the ethical right to ‘manage’ rivers which belong to a number of ecosystems and organisms, which provide invaluable services to humans”.

“The past year has been a defining year in my professional life, deciding the focus and direction of my current and future work. This would have been impossible without a support like the JWH Fund which gave me the freedom and impetus to work on issues very close to my heart: environmental flows, studying the water-ecology-community interface and equitable water management.” In future, Parineeta hopes to contribute to more in-depth and well-researched advocacy to protect rivers and their communities from further harm. Despite her already considerable contribution, she feels that her work is never finished!




Lecture series on the rivers of India: