This is a picture of the dry river bed of the Ganga Canal. The Ganga Canal in Haridwar is dried every year on Dussehra to clean the river bed and the waters are restored on Diwali. Photo source: Wikimedia via Bibek2011. Photograph: (Others)
The highly polluted but sacred Ganga, or Ganges River, will now have the protective rights given to humans as efforts are made to clean it
The river Ganga, or the Ganges River, was recognised today as the first living entity of India by the Uttarakhand High Court.
One of the largest rivers in India, Ganga is considered to be the holiest river in the country and holds a high place in its mythology. The Ganga is worshipped as a goddess, and for centuries Indians have come to it, especially in Varanasi, to be near its holy banks and to cremate their loved ones by it.
Recognising a river as a living entity means granting it the same legal rights as a human being. The new status means if someone pollutes river Ganga, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.
This ruling comes only four days after New Zealand's parliament granted the same rights to the 145-kilometre long Whanganui River, after calling it a living entity. The river became the first in the world to be legally recognised as a living entity and was granted the same rights as a human being.
The court also ruled the government to form a Ganga Administration Board for cleaning and better maintenance of the river. Earlier in the month, the court came heavily down upon the Union and Uttarakhand state government for doing "nothing concrete" to clean the river.
The court slammed them for wasting efforts on reviving a lost river Saraswati but not taking efforts on maintaining Ganga which if given proper attention will once again flow in its full glory.
"The Ganga should be saved for the generations to come," the court added.
The Executive Committee of the National Mission for Clean Ganga had recently approved 20 projects - 13 of which are in Uttarakhand - worth Rs 1,900 crore (over $290 million) to be swiftly implemented in Uttarakhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
Even non-Indians have been captivated by the Ganga. Among others, the American musician from the Grateful Dead, lead guitar player Jerry Garcia, had half his mortal remains scattered in the Ganga.
Watch Wion's segment: Cleaning River Ganges
Cleaning the Ganges, which is one of the holiest rivers in India, has been a key part of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's clean India campaign. WION met up with a group of volunteers who are spearheading that effort. (WION)
(WION with inputs from ANI)