River Ganga now a “Living Entity”, Uttarakhand HC gives the river the Fundamental Rights!

River “Ganga” holds an exalted and sacred position in the Hindu religion. River Ganga or the Ganges is a major river of the Indian subcontinent, associated in myth and reality with the land and people of India as well as neighbouring countries like Bangladesh. In Hinduism, the river Ganga is personified as goddess and holds an important place in the Hindu religion. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that bathing in the river Ganga causes the remission of sins and facilitates the attainment of salvation or nirvana. This deep-rooted truth is proved by the fact that people travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga at Varanasi or other places located on the banks of this holy river. Some of these sacred places, located on the Ganga, are Varanasi, Haridwar and Prayag (Allahabad).

River Ganga holds great importance in the economic, social and cultural life of the Indian people in general and Hindus in particular.

Uttarakhand High Court legally recognized Ganga River as a person on      March 20. The Ganges has been recognized as India’s first living entity, in a landmark ruling by the Uttarakhand High Court. One of the largest rivers in India, River Ganges is considered to be the holiest and holds a high place in the mythology of India.

Uttarakhand HC slammed the union government as well as the state government for having misplaced priorities like locating the missing river Sarasvati but doing “nothing concrete” in cleaning river Ganga.

The matter has been decided by the division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh. The same bench had expressed serious concern last week as to why the Supreme Court directives issued in December, 2016, were not adhered to.They quoted, “All the Hindus have deep ‘astha’ in the Ganga and the Yamuna and they collectively connect with these rivers. The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well-being. They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial.”

They noticed a lot of effort was going into tracing the “invisible” Sarasvati River but the visible river was getting no attention. The Ganga should be saved for the generations to come,” the court added.

Finally, High Court has directed the centre to recognize River Ganga and River Yamuna as living entities of India. The court also ruled the government to form a Ganga Administration Board for cleaning and better maintenance of the most important and sacred river of the country.

The 2,500km Ganga originates from Gaumukh glacier and the source of Yamuna, which is its longest tributary, is the Yamunotri glacier.

More than its rich heritage, Ganga is known for its cultural and religious beliefs in India. However, the river has been subjected to huge water pollution, and even finds its place among the worst polluted rivers in the world. Held sacred by Hindus, the rivers are choked with industrial effluents and untreated sewage.

The district magistrate was given 72 hours to clear the encroachments.

A similar ruling was passed out in New Zealand when their parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as a living entity. The river became the first in the world to be legally recognised as a living entity and was granted the same rights as a human being.

“Gange cha Yamunechaiva Godavari Saraswati |                                           

   Narmade SindhuKaveri jalesminsannidhimkuru||”

Meaning, in this water, I invoke the presence of holy waters from the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.

Anusha Shetty