India’s Ganges and Yamuna rivers recognised as living entities

The Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna river, one of two Indian rivers to be given a new legal status The Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna river, one of two Indian rivers to be given a new legal status Jorge Sanchez
21 Mar
2017
Following the recent success of New Zealand’s Whanganui river, India’s Ganges river and Yamuna river become the second and third in the world to be granted the legal rights of human beings

Just a week after the Whanganui river in New Zealand was given the legal status of a person, the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, have also been recognised as ‘people’. It will mean that the rivers must be represented in court and also that polluting them is tantamount to harming a human being.

The landmark decision comes from the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital, which also appointed three legal custodians and will create a river management board over the next three months. In a statement, the High Court said that it is hoped the ruling will:

‘ensure preservation and conservation of the two rivers and to protect the recognition and faith of society.’

As the largest of India’s rivers, the Ganges provides 40 per cent of the population’s water supply and is considered a sacred and purifying entity in Hindu culture. Conversely, it is also one of the ten most polluted rivers in the world, with an estimated three billion gallons of sewage released into it every day, as well as agricultural and industrial run-off.  As the court order was passed, two High Court judges, Alok Singh and Rajiv Sharma, said:

‘The extraordinary situation has arisen since the rivers Ganga and Yamuna are losing their very existence. This situation requires extraordinary measures.’

The ruling is part of an unprecedented trend for granting legal human rights to non-human entities. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognise the rights of nature in its constitution. When it comes to rivers, the new status of the Ganges and the Yamuna follow hot on the heels of New Zealand’s decision to officially recognise its Whanganui river as both a person and an essential part of local Māori culture.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Cities

The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…

Water

What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…

Mountains

Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…

Mapping

Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps

Water

Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…

Water

As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…

Cities

Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…

Mapping

An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…

Mapping

Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks

Mapping

A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…

Deserts

For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…

Forests

The first count of global tree species reveals how many…

Cities

The new ‘world’s longest flight’ now spans a distance of more…

Mountains

For the Swiss, the iconic yellow postbuses are much more…

Water

After years of inaction, could the clean-up of the Venice lagoon…

Water

Following the recent success of New Zealand’s Whanganui river, India’s…

Forests

The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)…

Mapping

Where are Europe's earthquakes located? Benjamin Hennig maps the answer