Two sacred Indian rivers get 'living human' status

5:50 pm on 22 March 2017

A court in northern Indian has given the Ganges and Yamuna rivers the status of "living human entities".

Hindu devotees bathing in the polluted river Ganges near Sangam in Allahabad.

Hindu devotees bathe in the polluted Ganges near Sangam in Allahabad. Photo: AFP

The ruling comes a week after the Whanganui River became the first in the world to be granted legal personhood.

The high court in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand said this would help in the "preservation and conservation" of the highly-polluted rivers.

It said the "legal status" ensured polluting the rivers would amount to harming a human being.

Both rivers are considered sacred in India. The majority Hindu population considers them to be goddesses.

Whanganui River

The Whanganui River was recognised as a legal person after legislation passed last week. Photo: 123.rf

The court said in its ruling that Hindus had "deep faith" in the two rivers and they "collectively connect with them".

"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," it said.

Both rivers are heavily polluted because of industrialisation and rapid urbanisation.

Two top state officials have been appointed "legal guardians" of the rivers and would represent their rights.

Activists said the order was likely to fast track efforts to clean the rivers.