Now rivers have the same legal status as people, we must uphold their rights

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Rivers around the world have been desecrated in every way. Now the Ganges and New Zealand’s Whanganui have legal standing, how will we protect their rights?

Several geographically-distant but related events signalled a dramatic mind shift in humanity’s troubled relationship with nature last month. First, the New Zealand parliament passed the Te Awa Tupua Act, giving the Whanganui River and ecosystem a legal standing in its own right, guaranteeing its “health and well-being”.

Shortly after, a court in India ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their related ecosystems have “the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities … in order to preserve and conserve them”.

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