Supreme Court: Ganges 'not a living being'

The judges overturn a ruling by the Upper Court of Uttarakhand. The river is highly polluted by industrial waste, urbanization, pesticides. The new legal status threatened to make the river responsible for flood damage.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the Ganges River and its affluent Yamuna cannot be considered living beings. The ruling overturns a previous ruling by the High Court of Uttarakhand, which in March of this year equated the waters of the two streams, considered sacred by over a billion Hindus, to "living human entities."

The judges of the Indian state, from which the sacred river flows, had decreed that the two rivers possess "the legal status of a person with all the rights, duties and responsibilities arising therefrom." Their judgment was welcomed by those who have been trying for years to purge waters polluted by industrial waste, urbanization and spraying of pesticides used in agriculture.

The Ganges - revered as "Ganga Mata", that is, "Mother Ganges" - is a source of life and sustenance for over half of the Indian population, who live on its banks and perform sacred rituals, contributing to increasing waste. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the Uttarakhand government appealed to Supreme Judges, arguing that it was "impossible to enforce" the new legal status and that it would only cause judicial complications. As a "person", someone could have sued the rivers with the responsibility for flooding.

The Supreme Court has supported the local authorities. However, the key question remains open: how to clean the river from waste and keep the waterways healthy.