After New Zealand, India's Ganges gains legal status of a person

Uttarakhand HC recognises rivers ganga and Yamuna as first living entities of India

The river Ganga, said to be the cradle of Indian civilization, has been given the status of the "first living entity of India" by the Uttarakhand high court.

Recognising a river as a living entity means granting it the same legal rights as a human being.

A court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand has granted the same legal rights as a human to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, considered sacred by almost a billion Indians.

The judgment came following a petition on a matter related to mining and stone crushing along the banks of the Ganga.

The division bench of Justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh cited the example of river Whanganui in New Zealand which has been given such a status. He said that the court was given the reference to a similar ruling where a New Zealand court has also entitled a river as a living being.

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The petitioner in his plea also contended that there is no effective distribution of properties attached to the tributaries of the rivers between Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the two states that is connected via the holy rivers.

Environment activists say many rivers across India have become dirtier as the country's economy develops, with city sewage, farming pesticides and industrial effluents freely flowing into waterways despite laws against polluting.

The court slammed them for wasting efforts on reviving a lost river Saraswati but not taking efforts on maintaining Ganga which if given proper attention will once again flow in its full glory.

"The Ganga should be saved for the generations to come", the court added.

The court named the director of Namami Gange, the chief secretary of Uttarakhand and the advocate general of the state "persons in loco parentsi" -the human face representing the rivers. It also ruled that these officers are bound to "uphold the status" of the two rivers and also promote their "health and well being".

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