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NEW DELHI: The Uttarakhand High Court court on Monday declared River Ganges as India’s first living entity. The status gives the Ganges – one of India’s largest rivers – the same legal rights as a human being, ANI reported.

As per the new categorisation, anyone polluting the river or harming it anyway can be penalised the way a court can punish someone hurting a human being.

The river is considered sacred by followers of Hinduism.

The high court has also asked the centre to form a Ganges Administration Board to ensure that the river is cleaned. “The Ganges should be saved for generations to come,” the court observed.

Earlier in March, the court had criticised the central and state governments for doing “nothing concrete” to clean the river. It rebuked state governments for wasting resources on reviving the “lost River Saraswati” instead of prioritising the Ganges.

In February, the National Green Tribunal had criticised the centre for “wasting public money” in the name of the Namami Gange Project. “Not a single drop of River Ganges has been cleaned so far,” the tribunal had told the government.

The ruling comes days after New Zealand became the first country to declare a river – the Whanganui River – a living entity, ANI said.

It said the executive committee of the centre’s National Mission for Clean Ganges had recently cleared 20 projects – 13 of which are in Uttarakhand – worth Rs1,900 crore to be immediately implemented in Uttarakhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017