This is a rarity. And it has happened twice within a week.
After New Zealand granted Whanganui River the status of a human being, India’s done it for two of its oldest, longest and most iconic rivers: Ganga and Yamuna.
In a landmark ruling by the Uttarakhand High Court in northern India, the Ganga and its longest tributary, Yamuna, have been declared “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities.”
This essentially means that if anyone is polluting the rivers, it amounts to harming a human being and thus, invites legal action.
“The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well-being. They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial,” the ruling said.
The Ganga and Yamuna are among the most revered rivers in India’s art, culture and mythology. The Ganga, in fact, has been accorded ‘Mother’ status for ages. And the Yamuna flows through the national capital of Delhi supplying water to its 20 million residents.
The conservation of the Ganga has been a key project for the Indian government. The National Mission for Clean Ganga set up by the Centre oversees projects related to it. Most recently, the government approved significant budgets for the purpose.
The decision to humanize rivers has invited mixed reactions on social media. While some have welcomed it, others have been a tad critical and snarky.
And there are hilarious concerns too: Do the rivers have to pay taxes now?
Since Ganga has the same rights as a Human Being, will there be any swachh Bharat tax for Ganga also?
— Arjun Ganesh (@GGani33) March 21, 2017
A river in North India to have the same fundamental rights as a human being.
Congratulations , Water! You beat Muslims and Dalits to it!
— ☭ Comrade Nambiar ☭ (@DasBolshevik) March 21, 2017
All the best, India!