SC stays order on declaring Ganga, Yamuna as 'living entity'
The Supreme Court stayed Uttarakhand High Court's order in declaring both River Ganga and Yamuna as living entities this Friday after the state government challenged the High Court's order. The Uttarakhand state government in its petition challenging the court's order, raised questions whether in case of casualties in a flood, the victims could file suit for damages against chief secretary of the state.
The Ganga: Introduction
The Ganga is the largest Indian river, spanning 2500-kms; it holds an irreversible, extraordinary importance in the religious lives of Hindus. Varanasi and Patna, the world's oldest inhabited cities, are located on the banks of this river. 40% of India's population, spread over 11 states, relies on the Ganga for water. It serves an estimated population of 500 million, larger than any river globally.
Pollution in the Ganges
The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in India. It has high traces of toxic chemicals and heavy metals which were released into it by industries located near the river. In addition, partially burned dead bodies are left adrift down the river, which then rot and add biological toxins into the river. It also has among the lowest oxygen-content in Indian rivers.
Cleaning up the Ganga
The Namami Gange programme, or the National Mission for Clean Ganga is a project by the Union Government aiming at 'Ganga Rejuvenation' by merging existing efforts and creating concrete plans for the future. Maintaining minimum ecological flows, ensuring water quality and sustainable development are some the objectives of the program. However, these clean-up programs have not had the desired effect, so far.
Ganges is now a living entity: Uttarakhand HC
In March, the Uttarakhand High Court had declared that the river Ganges is a living entity. The court lambasted the Uttarakhand state government for failing to clean up the river effectively. The court also condemned the Centre for attempting to revive the mythical Saraswati river while existing rivers were suffering. The court said "the Ganga should be saved for the generations to come."
The world's first human-river
The first river in the world to be recognized as a living entity was the 145km long Whanganui River in New Zealand on 16 March, 2017. The river enjoys the same rights as human beings.
Living entity: Rs. 100cr fine, 7-year jail for hurting Ganga
The draft on the new National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill 2017 recommends imprisonment of upto seven years and fines of upto Rs. 100cr for "offences" against the river, including blocking its flow, constructing unauthorized jetties, or quarrying the banks. It has also recommended declaring the area within a 1km radius of the Ganga and its tributaries as "water saving zone".