Colombia the Latest to Recognize the Legal Rights of a Cherished River
"In a landmark verdict, Colombia’s Constitutional Court has recognized the Atrato River basin as having rights to 'protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration,'" reports Sarah Bardeen for the International Rivers site.
The river is the third around the world to receive legal protections, after the Whanganui River in New Zealand was granted the status of a human entity in March. The ruling on the legal status of the Atrato River actually came earlier, in November 2016, but has only recently been publicized. As explained by Bardeen, Colombia's decision regarding the Atrato River doesn't include the same language about the river's human or living status. The decision does, however, "offer protection to the Atrato River while simultaneously guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the communities that inhabit its banks. Under this new paradigm, known as 'biocultural rights,' the Court has asserted that the most effective way to protect ethnic communities’ rights is through biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration."
In March, the Yamuna and Ganges rivers in India were also granted legal status as living entities, following the lead set by New Zealand.