Shortly after, a court in India ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their related ecosystems have “the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities … in order to preserve and conserve them”.
The history of the rivers makes these proclamations remarkable. The Ganges has long been considered sacred and millions of people depend on it for sustenance, yet it has been polluted, mined, diverted and degraded to a shocking extent. The Whanganui has witnessed a century-old struggle between the indigenous Iwi people and the New Zealand government over its treatment. Notably, the Iwi consider themselves and the Whanganui as an indivisible whole, expressed in the common saying: “I am the river, and the river is me.”