Rivers don't have same rights as humans: India

2017-07-08 05:51
A man prays on the banks of the River Ganges. (iStock)

A man prays on the banks of the River Ganges. (iStock)

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New Delhi - India's sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers cannot be considered "living entities", the country's top court has ruled, suspending an earlier order that granted them the same legal rights as humans.

The Supreme Court stayed a March order by a lower body that recognised the Ganges and its tributary the Yamuna as "legal persons" in an attempt to protect the highly polluted rivers from further degradation.

Holiest river

The landmark ruling made polluting or damaging the rivers legally comparable to hurting a person and saw three top government officials appointed as custodians.

But the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand, where the Ganges originates, petitioned the top court arguing the legal status to the venerated rivers was "unsustainable in the law".

In its plea, the state said the ruling was unclear on whether the custodians or the state government was liable to pay damages to those who drown during floods, in case they file damage suits.

The Ganges is India's longest and holiest river, but the waters in which pilgrims ritualistically bathe and scatter the ashes of their dead is heavily polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.

Successive governments in India have attempted with limited success to clean up the Ganges, which snakes 2 500km across northern India from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.

Environmental destruction

In March, New Zealand recognised Whanganui - its third-largest river - as a living entity, making it the first river in the world to be given such rights.

The Indian High Court in a separate order in April also recognised Himalayan glaciers, lakes and forests as "legal persons" in the mountainous state in a bid to curb environmental destruction.

Read more on:    india

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