On this Pacific island that has now turned into a successful tourist destination, since 1870, the Ewe tribe have fought for recognition of their rights to the Wanganui River.
After 150 years, she finally won her case: the third longest river in the country, Te Ua Tobua in Maori, was recognized by the New Zealand Parliament as a living entity, with the status of “legal personality” and “all rights and duties associated with it” defined by the Minister of Justice.
According to the new legislation, a river is indeed a living being “that starts from the mountains to the sea, including its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements.” So the tribe was compensated by the New Zealand government with 52 million euros in legal costs and an additional 30 million euros to protect the river.
In India, two rivers considered sacred have also gained new legal status. The Supreme Court of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand described the Ganges and Yamuna, where Hindus perform ablution regularly, as “living entities with legal person status.” These new laws will allow citizens to take legal action on behalf of these rivers heavily polluted with industrial waste!
We can also add to these cases many other examples that pushed states to enact legislation. But, to any lord, all honor. In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to introduce the legal concept of “rights of nature” into its constitution. An initiative that inspired a remarkable development in awareness and led to the Cochabamba Conference in Bolivia in 2010, where the rights of Mother Earth, or “Pachamama”, were the subject of a quickly received declaration. It is supported by many international organizations and personalities such as Vandana Shiva.
This internationally known physicist subsequently presided, in 2014 in Quito, the first court aimed at examining and convicting 9 cases of harm to nature.