UTTARAKHAND – An Indian High Court in the northern state of Uttarakhand on Tuesday has given the status of living human entities to two of India’s most famous rivers,  Ganges and Yamuna in order to keep them safe from widespread pollution.

The rivers which were considered sacred by nearly a billion Hindus in the country will be treated as human being meaning that if anyone harms or pollutes them, the law would view it the same as harming a person, reported international media.

The judges quoted the example of New Zealand’s Whanganui River, revered by the indigenous Maori people. The Whanganui was declared a living entity with full legal rights by New Zealand’s government last week.

The Uttarakhand court also appointed three officials to act as legal custodians responsible for conserving and protecting the two rivers and their tributaries.

Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh declared the rivers “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities”.

The case came to court after officials lodged a complaint that the governments of Uttarakhand and the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh were not co-operating with federal government struggles to set up a panel to protect the Ganges.

The court ordered that the Ganga Management Board be establish and begin working within three months.