Tuesday 21 March 2017

Person Status to River Ganga, Yamuna and Risk of Selective Use!

Written by Anil Singh

The Uttarakhand High court Nainital, yesterday declared the Ganga and Yamuna living entities. This means that the two rivers are given the same legal rights as a person. 

The court’s order will allow complaints to be filed in the name of the two rivers. The HC bench allowed the director general of Namami Gange project, Uttarakhand chief secretary and advocate general the right to represent the Ganga.

The decision is being seen as one that could help in efforts to clean the highly polluted rivers.

The HC order gives the Centre eight weeks to set up boards for cleaning and maintaining the rivers.

Namami Gange is a Central Government's plan that encompasses all efforts for cleaning and conserving River Ganga.

Risk of selective use of the newly granted Status

A major Hindi Daily quotes the HC ruling as: If you throw litter (in Hindi, Kooda) in River Ganga, Yamuna then a case can be filed against you!

This tells why there’s a risk of a selective use of the newly granted status.

It's a documented fact that the primary cause of river pollution in Ganga and Yamuna is the toxic industrial waste and untreated sewage released into the rivers. Notably, such pollutants are mainly released or are allowed to be released into the rivers by various State, City and town bodies responsible for keeping the cities and towns clean.

In short, the responsibility of making rivers pollution free doesn't lie on individuals throwing litter in the rivers. Instead, the responsibility lies on various regulatory and civic bodies.

Thus, although the High Court ruling is landmark in many terms, the societal perception opens it to misuse.

It will not be wrong to assume that while granting legal person status to the two rivers, the HC bench would have the desire to make such Civic bodies accountable. But as Senior Advocate RS Raghav explains, granting living entity status to the rivers will mean any person who throws litter or pollutes river in any other form will come under the radar. In addition, the Court’s observation into the reverential value of these rivers to Hindus makes them as self appointed watchdogs of the pollution in these rivers.

To conclude, let's hope that the pollution in these rivers will now be tackled at Civic body and above levels; and we will very soon see proactive action against those responsible to keep the rivers pollution free. We will see the removal of encroachments from river beds and up to a particular distance on both banks. We can also hope the setting up of 13, centrally sponsored sewage treatment plants in Uttarakhand and upgrading the existing ones.

Let's hope we will not see much cases filed against common man for polluting these rivers.


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