Himanshu Sharma, Ganges River Basin, Wikimedia Commons

Himanshu Sharma, Ganges River Basin, Wikimedia Commons

On March 22, 2017, the Uttarakhand high court in India declared two sacred rivers, the Ganga and Yamuna, as living entities with their own legal rights. The two rivers now have the same legal status as a person. The court also appointed guardians to represent these waterways in legal matters.

This is a monumental step for these waterways. Citizens can now file complaints on the rivers' behalf. The court’s decision also requires that a board be created to clean and maintain the rivers. The Ganga River, the third largest river in the world, is extremely polluted. The Yamuna is its main tributary.

This news followed just five days after the Treaty settlement for the Whanganui River was passed into law in New Zealand. Now three rivers worldwide have been granted legal personhood.