In the span of the last two weeks, there have been three rivers on Earth that got granted the same rights that humans have. The rivers in question are the Whanganui River in New Zealand and the Yamuna River and Ganges River in India. The move to make this radical choice in both countries stemmed from environmental concerns and for religious reasons.

New Zealand

The first river to receive this honor was the Whanganui River in New Zealand, which got granted the same legal status as humans after New Zealand's Parliament passed a bill granting it that right.

It is believed that New Zealand's law was the first decision of its kind in history. The Maori people, who are native to the country, have fought for almost 150 years to have their relationship and spiritual connection to the river be legally recognized. Under the new bill that got passed the river would will be granted $56 million in compensation, as well as $21 million that would go to a fund for keeping the river healthy. Finally, there would be a Maori representative and a government representative who would act on behalf of the river during legal disputes.


Ironically enough, a few days later in India, a similar decision got made when the high court in the state of Uttarakhand ruled that the Yamuna River and Ganges River should have the same legal status as humans do.

In India, the Yamuna and Ganges are both considered sacred by Hindus due to being personified as the goddess Yamuna and Ganga respectively. Many devout Hindus also bathe in the rivers for religious purposes. The decision by Uttarakhand's high court was made to help protect the rivers so this means complaints can now be filed under the river's names.

There will also be three officials who will act as legal guardians for the rivers. The high court's decision was also influenced by the state of the rivers as the Ganges has an estimated one billion gallons of waste enter its waters every day. The Yamuna meanwhile, has been called a "dead" river by scientists as its waters are so toxic it can't support life.