Welcoming a juristic person status to glaciers, meadows, forests and so on, environmentalists said people in Uttarakhand have accorded divine significance to these natural entities in the Himalayas over the centuries.
The Uttarakhand high court, which recently accorded the status of ‘living human entities’ to the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, extended the order on March 31 to include a range of natural entities within the ambit of a ‘juristic person’.
The high court declared all the glaciers, including Gangotri and Yamunotri, rivers, streams, rivulets, lakes, air, meadows, dales, jungles, forests wetlands, grasslands, springs and waterfalls as living entities. Following the order, these entities will have legal rights of a living person.
“Though the court order is welcome, environment protection and conservation has always been linked to local traditions and religion in Uttarakhand,” said environmental activist Anil Joshi.
“Rivers such as Ganga and Yamuna have been bestowed the status of goddesses. Many mountains and naulas (water sources) are dedicated to gods, signifying importance of their conservation. The court order is just a legal aspect; conservation has been sanctified in the spiritual domain,” he said.
The court directed that all rights, duties, liabilities and rights -- akin to fundamental and legal rights of a living person -- be conferred on the natural entities for their conservation. “Any harm caused to these bodies shall be treated as being caused to the human beings,” the court said. Now cases can be registered on their behalf by guardians.
“Most of the water sources have temples – a message for their conservation. There is a tradition of dedicating forests to gods so that the trees are not cut,” said Suresh Bhai who has been fighting for conservation of rivers.
“The court order is just a validation of the spiritual practices in Uttarakhand in which rivers, glaciers and meadows have been given a divine status so as to preserve them in their pristine form.”
Pankaj Miglani, on whose petition the court gave the order, said “The judgement would help in fighting legal cases; from now on, rivers or glaciers would be able to sue the violators through their guardians.”