In celebration of Water Quality Month, this is the second of two articles on the River Ganges by Caitlin Flannery, a valued contributor to Blue Ocean Network. See To Save Mother Ganga, the River Ganges Is Made Human, Part 1 for Caitlin’s opening article on the Ganges, plus her related article Is it time we gave Mother Nature Human Rights? New Zealand says yes. This concludes a series Caitlin has written on the legal rights that are being granted to Mother Nature. Great job, Caitlin! —
Clean River Ganges: The Symbol of an Unpolluted India
The majority of Indians see nature as the physical body of the divine. In Hindu culture this means that the rivers Ganges and Yamuna, and glaciers Gangotri and Yamunotri are considered environment and religious figures.
Now, with the High Court of Uttarakhand’s decision to make the Yamuna, Ganga, Gangotri and Yamunotri into “juristic persons,” they are nature, god(dess), and human.
By taking a waterway that is revered from divine into human, Uttarakhand creates an incentive to protect it. There is no need to protect the all-powerful. However, we fight each day to preserve our humanly freedoms. This ruling reflects the sentiment that the divine is within our very nature.
What Will Change?
Two rulings state that roughly $141,100,000 USD (882 crore Rupees) shall be released for the health of the rivers and glaciers. In addition to granting money and legal status to the Yamuna, Ganges, Gangotri, and Yamunotri, the law also appoints legal representatives to prioritize their health. Following ratification of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, India adapted their Constitution to reflect their adherence to international law. New additions to their constitution included:
Article 48-A, obligating the state to protect and improve the environment,
Article 51A(g), obligating citizens to undertake the same.
The application of international standards is what we are witnessing in this Indian State.
Will it Work?
While this ruling has financial backing and organization behind it, the lack of funds or departments relegated to clean-up has never been the issue. Starting in 1985 with the first Ganga Action Plan, two federal initiatives have been completed, without positive progress in terms of pollution.
One of the major obstacles to this ruling’s efficacy is that the most concentrated pollution occurs in a neighboring state to Uttarakhand–Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is home to cities Kanpur and Varanasi. Kanpur is home to many of the polluting tanneries. Varanasi faces extreme population pressures on their inadequate sewage treatment facilities. The Uttarakhand ruling is not a federal law, nor does it have the cooperation of other states. (photo – Ganga Action Parivar)
The current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, ran on a platform of cleaning up the River Ganges. He developed the Namami Ganga Programme with a five-year budget that exceeds $3.3 billion USD. Uttarakhand’s decision aligns with Modi. The Director of the Namami Ganga Programme is one of the human legal representatives appointed for this freshwater system. However, reports on the progress of this project two years in are not positive.
A significant shift in state power could signal a powerful change in the efficacy of these rulings.
State elections in early 2017 resulted in the victory of Modi’s political party in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, with the largest margin of victory in Uttar Pradesh in 30 years. This shift in power on the state level puts Modi on the path to take control of the Upper House of Parliament in 2019.
His democratic consolidation of power signals larger trends in India that reflect the priorities of Uttarakhand’s ruling and spurs hope that the Namami Ganga Programme will gain nation-wide footing. With the appointment of a long-time Ganges advocate as his Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, we could be on trend to hear more progress on river health. (photo – India News)
By Caitlin Flannery, contributor to Blue Ocean Network
See these related Blue Ocean Posts:
India’s tech solutions for pollution clean-up.
Examination of the Rights of Nature movement
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!