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Ganges ruling influenced by New Zealand

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/03/2017

Indian judges have cited New Zealand's example when declaring the sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers as living entities with the same legal rights as human beings.

The Ganges is considered sacred by millions of Hindus with its main tributary the Yamuna providing drinking water to the country's capital New Delhi.

But environmentalists say Indian rivers have become dirtier as the country's economy develops, with city sewage, farming pesticides and industrial effluents freely flowing into them, AP reports.

On Monday, the High Court in the state of Uttarakhand appointed three officials to act as legal custodians responsible for conserving and protecting the two Indian rivers and their tributaries, according to AP.

With activists hopeful the ruling can help protect the rivers, the Indian judges cited the example of how New Zealand declared its Whanganui River a living entity on March 15, the first river in the world to be given these rights.

Following the passing of the bill in New Zealand's parliament, the Whanganui River will now have two guardians appointed to protect its interests.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said this allowed the river to represent itself through its human representatives, one appointed by the Whanganui Iwi and one by the Crown.

"I know some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality, but it's no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies," he said.

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