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SC stays high court order recognizing Ganga and Yamuna as living entities

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-07-2017 Priyanka Mittal

New Delhi: The Supreme court on Friday stayed the operation of an order by the Uttarakhand high court recognizing the rivers Ganga and Yamuna as living entities.

The stay order was passed on a plea by the state of Uttarakhand, which challenged the directive granting the rivers the rights enjoyed by people of the nation.

It was argued by the Uttarakhand state government that since the rivers ran through different states, it should be the centre’s prerogative to take such a decision and not a particular state.

In March, the Uttarakhand high court had recognized the two rivers as living entities and granted them a legal identity and all rights laid out in the constitution. It was the first time that a court had recognized a non-human as a living entity in India.

A bench comprising justices Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh had held that if the state government failed to fulfil its responsibility towards the rivers, the central government should step in.

The court had also directed the central government to constitute the Ganga management board within eight weeks to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining the river.

The court’s recognition had come just days after New Zealand accorded a living entity status to its third-largest river, Whanganui, in one of the longest-running court cases that country had seen.

The Ganga has significant economic, environmental and cultural value attached to it. Originating in the Himalayas and flowing into the Bay of Bengal in the east, it travels for more than 2,500km through the plains of northern and eastern India, passing through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns.

The river flows through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and touches 167 Lok Sabha constituencies. In the 2014 parliamentary polls, the BJP won 90 of these. The party recently won assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Over 1,500 million litres of raw sewage is discharged into the Ganga every day. This joins 500 million litres of industrial waste dumped by more than 700 highly polluting industries located along it.

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