A Campaign to Establish Rights of the Ganges River
The Act is now being presented to India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. A recent national news article described how the proposed law would “grant legal rights to the Ganga.”
For decades, the Ganges River has been in serious decline. The proposed National Ganga River Rights Act would protect and restore one of the world’s most beloved river systems. It would do this through the recognition of legal rights of the Ganges River and river basin, and provide for the enforcement and defense of those rights.
CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature is partnering with indigenous peoples, communities, and civil society in India, Nepal, and other countries to advance the Rights of Nature. The movement for the Rights of Nature is building as environmental degradation – including species loss, coral reef die-off, and climate change – advance around the world. There is a growing recognition that we must place the highest legal protections on nature through the recognition of rights.
Advancing a New Paradigm to Protect the Ganges
Today the Ganges River Basin is managed under environmental regulatory laws similar to conventional environmental laws found around the world. These laws are designed to regulate how we use nature, legalizing environmental harms by regulating how much pollution or destruction of an ecosystem can occur under law.
As this structure of environmental law has spread across the globe over the past four decades, by almost every criterion, the condition of the natural environment has worsened. We need look no further than the Ganges to see that this structure of law is not able to protect the river basin or the natural environment of India. Fundamental change is needed. CELDF is working globally to spearhead a rights-based legal paradigm for nature, driving that change forward.
Recognizing Rights of Nature and Rights of the Ganges River Basin
Ecuador, Bolivia, as well as communities in the United States have enacted laws recognizing that ecosystems have rights, and that people and their governments may enforce and defend these rights. These laws guarantee that ecosystem rights to exist and flourish cannot be impaired.
Today, despite the tremendous degradation of the Ganges and ongoing harm to the natural environment, the people and governments of India are unable to defend the rights of the Ganges River Basin and ecosystems of India. This is because the Ganges and other ecosystems are considered right-less under law.
The National Ganga River Rights Act would change that, recognizing rights of the Ganges and prohibiting any activity that interferes with the river’s rights. Further, it would empower people, communities, civil society, and government to protect and defend these rights; secure the rights of human and natural communities to a healthy river and pure water; and provide that any monetary damages awarded for violations of such rights are to be awarded for the sole purpose of restoring the river ecosystem to its pre-damaged state.
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