Why does the Ganga need rights?

Bathing in GangaDepended on for life itself by some 500 million people, as well as by countless species of plants and animals, the Ganga is in serious danger. And because of this, people are also placed in danger. Case in point:

  • Nearly a billion liters of toxic chemicals pour into the Ganga every day. In some areas, the people that depend on Ganga’s waters are much more prone to contracting cancer than practically anyplace else in the world
  • 2 billion liters of sewage are dumped into the Ganga every day, causing deadly diseases, including typhoid, dysentery and cholera.

Traditional laws are ineffective

Garhwal-HimalayasDespite the tremendous importance of the Ganga, current laws are not giving the people and government of India the tools they need to protect it—and themselves– from harm.

Today the Ganga River and its tributaries are governed by legislation that only attempts to limit the degree of harm that can be inflicted, rather than prevent it. The river is managed as property, without any rights of its own – its treatment is governed by the whims of those entities (private or government) deemed to “own” the Ganga. Clearly, such a system of “ownership” fails to protect the interests of either the Ganga or of the millions of people who depend upon it for survival.

A new rights-based paradigm

Nature now has legal rights in nations including New Zealand, the United States and Ecuador. Now it is time for the Ganga to win its rights.

Moving from mere regulation to a rights-based system of environmental protection will provide a means to defend the rights of the Ganga, as well as the rights of the millions of people who depend upon it. The Ganga Rights Act would:

  • Establish the Ganga’s right to exist, thrive, regenerate, and evolve;
  • Empower individuals, groups, and governments within India to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights in the court of law;
  • Affirm the rights of people, plants, fish and animals to a healthy Ganga;
  • Provide that any activity that interferes with the Ganga’s rights will be prohibited;
  • Provide that any damages that may be awarded for violations of the Ganga’s rights will be used to restore its ecosystem to its pre-damaged state;
  • Institute enforcement mechanisms to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights, including establishing governmental offices responsible for defending those rights.