These Two Rivers Were Just Given the Same Legal Rights as Humans
While the U.S. makes it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste into streams and waterways, other countries are acknowledging the importance of water and granting personhood to these precious resources.
The High Court of the Indian state of Uttarakhand ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries have "legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities."
The decision marks the first time a court has recognized a non-human as a living entity in India.
Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh cited the example of New Zealand's Whanganui River, which became the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person last week.
The decision by New Zealand's Parliament marked the end of the country's longest-running court case, as the Whanganui Iwi have long fought for the recognition of their authority over the river and consider it "an indivisible and living whole."
World's First River Given Legal Status as a Person https://t.co/cQqscoDqi4 via @EcoWatch https://t.co/LJeUbX8QT8— Climate Council (@Climate Council)1489970106.0
Similarly, the Ganges and Yamuna are considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu population.
"The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well being," the court said in its ruling. "They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial."
The rivers now have "legal parents," or state officials who will be the human face of the rivers. The central government has also been directed to establish a management board within three months to lead conservation efforts.
The ruling gives the rivers a legal voice that could potentially save the highly polluted waterways from further destruction.
As India.com explained, since the Ganges and the Yamuna are now legal persons, "if anyone is found polluting the rivers, it would be equivalent to harming humans."
The Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal.Flickr
The judges noted that the once-mighty Ganges and Yamuna rivers are "losing their very existence."
The 1,569-mile Ganges River is a considered a lifeline for the hundreds of millions of people living along its banks. But increasing urbanization and industrialization of one of the world's fastest-growing economies have tarnished the waters. More than 1,500 million liters of raw sewage is discharged into the Ganges every day, along with 500 million liters of industrial waste, Live Mint noted.
A 2016 NPR report described the Yamuna, the main tributary of the Ganges, as the "dirtiest river in the country" and a "toxic cocktail of sewage, industrial waste and surface runoff."
India's governments have spent billions of dollars on efforts to clean the Ganges. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also promised to restore the river.
As more countries step up to legally protect their waterways, will the U.S. be left behind as our lawmakers continue to gut environmental protections?
Last month, President Trump signed legislation that repealed the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a law that protects waterways from coal mining waste.
"In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations," Trump said at the signing.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>