National River Ganga and Yamuna Granted  Legal Personhood

The High Court of the state of Uttarakhand in northern India has ruled that the National River Ganga and Yamuna are now entitled to the right of healthy life as human living entities.  This ruling comes not a moment too soon to protect the sacred rivers from further pollution and ecological degradation.

Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities

Background of National River Ganga and Yamuna

For decades, millions of Hindus from around the world have expressed outrage that their sacred National River Ganga and Yamuna have been defiled by industries, municipalities and people without adequate protection from the government of India. Now the monumental task of restoring the rivers to a healthy condition can begin with the support of the government.

From Worship to Environmental Disaster

Since ancient times, the two rivers known to Hindus as Ganga Maa and Yamuna Maa have been worshipped by people from around the world who seek purification and liberation of their souls by bathing in their sacred waters.

Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities

Today, in spite of the horribly contaminated physical state of the water in many places, devout Hindus can be seen immersing themselves in the rivers because scripture declares that the Ganga and Yamuna are absolutely, spiritually pure. We have found more information on Ganges river published on

National River Ganga has become an urgent social, political and economical issue

However, when millions of people’s health and livelihood has been acutely degraded to the point where life itself becomes jeopardized, it is time for political and legal action. Granting the status of human living entities to the rivers gives a tremendous boost to many environmental groups and popular movements who have been working tirelessly for years to save the holy national river Ganga and Yamuna.

Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities

National River Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities

The court’s order allows complaints to be lodged in the name of the two rivers. It also gives stronger authority to the Namami Gange Project to set up boards for cleaning and maintaining the rivers.

Namami Gange is an ambitious initiative by Prime Minister Modi’s government to clean up and preserve the Ganges.  Uttarakhand justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh have designated the director general of the Namami Gange Project, the Uttarakhand chief secretary and advocate general the right to represent the Ganges. Recently the Central Pollution Control Board identified 1,000 industries responsible for polluting the Ganges.

The Union water resources ministry under the Namami Gange project has undertaken a special mission to conduct inspections of those industries to see if they are complying with the norms for treating industrial effluents before releasing them into the river.

Don’t forget the Yamuna River

In the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, holy cities with many shrines and temples located on the banks of the Yamuna, the river has been severely contaminated by sewage and industrial pollution pouring in from Delhi.

Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities is one of several non-profit organizations that has been working on a grassroots level with the local population, municipalities and foreign volunteers to clean up the Yamuna river. For more information please read the article Save the Yamuna River.

The organization is elated to hear about the court ruling, but its members understand that the hard work to change the hearts and minds of everyday people continues. A spokesperson for the organization said,

“We welcome the initiatives of the government to crack down on more than 1000 industrial companies and thousands of small towns and villages that allow chemical pollutants and untreated sewage to enter the rivers, but we must continue to raise awareness among the general population about the harmful practice of throwing plastic and other trash into the river. There is so much work to be done to educate the people and convince them that we all must hold ourselves accountable for the ecological integrity of the river.”


Conclusion on legal issue of National River Ganga and Yamuna

It is significant that the high court issuing the ruling is located in the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand where the source of the rivers is found. The mountain villages of Gangotri and Yamunotri are very sacred places where millions of Hindus go on pilgrimage every year to bathe in the icy, pure water.

The Uttarakhand court drew upon the judicial precedent of a similar New Zealand court order granting human living entity status to the Whanganui River, sacred to the ancestral Maori tribe.

With these two court orders, according to which National River Ganga and Yamuna are legal personalities, there is hope that governments around the world will realize that Mother Nature herself with her mountains, earth, air and waters is a living entity deserving of human rights to a healthful, pure existence.

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