NEW DELHI, March 22 (Xinhua) -- An India court in northern state of Uttar Pradesh has given the status of "living human entities" to the rivers Ganges and Yamuna, and extended legal rights as a person to both the watercourses.
The court order makes polluting the rivers legally comparable to hurting a person and accordingly will elicit legal action.
Though highly polluted with sewage, industrial wastes, pilgrims' mass bathing and immersion of human ashes as religious rituals, the rivers are considered sacred by majority of Hindu population.
"Exercising extraordinary jurisdiction vested in the court, a division bench of Uttarakhand High Court on Monday declared holy rivers - Ganges and Yamuna to be treated as living human entities," a court official said Tuesday.
"The court ordered that chief secretary and the advocate general of Uttarakhand will act as the 'legal parents' of the holy rivers and work as a human face to protect, conserve and preserve them and their tributaries."
The court ordered that the chief secretary who is also director of Namami Gange project (National Mission for Clean Ganges) will be responsible for cleaning and rejuvenating the river. The Namami Gange is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious plan undertaken to clean and conserve the river.
After assuming power in 2014, Modi pledged to clean up the Ganges, a promise yet to be fulfilled.
The move is seen as an effort to conserve and protect the two rivers along with the faith attached to them.
Last week the Whanganui River in the North Island of New Zealand became the world's first natural resource to be declared as a living entity with full legal rights. The river has special status owing to its importance to the region's Mori people.
The river Ganges stretched over length of 2,525 km originates from icy Himalayan peaks of Uttarakhand called Gangotri and criss-crosses several states before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Yamuna is its largest tributary and originates from Yamunotri in Uttarakhand.
Revered by Indian Hindus, the Ganges during its course is slowly poisoned with industrial wastes and pollution from the population that reside along its banks. Ganges is the third largest river in the world but also one of the most polluted.