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. The landmark judgment of the court gives Ganga rights similar to a living person, and is expected to have a positive bearing on efforts to clean up the polluted and much abused river. Similar status has been given to Yamuna, the tributary of Ganga, which, to the despair of courts, has practically become a sewer owing to dumping of untreated sewage and industrial pollutants.
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, also named two "legal parents" of the rivers. The Director, Namami Gange project for cleaning and rejuvenating the river, and the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand have been charged to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers and their tributaries.
The judgment came following a petition on a matter related to mining and stone crushing along the banks of the Ganga.
Considered the most sacred river of India, Ganga is deeply linked to the people's cultural beliefs and identity. But over the last few decades, it has become one of the most polluted rivers of the world. Various campaigns -- including the "Clean Ganga" project undertaken by the government and orders from various courts to treat sewage and shut down polluting industries along its banks - have failed to bring about the desired effect.
Recently water resources minister Uma Bharati has said her ministry has undertaken a sustained multi-faceted approach to keep the river clean. The "Namami Gange programme" involves integration of all villages along River Ganga, a special literacy drive and bringing team of national and international experts to develop innovative technologies.
(With inputs from PTI)