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Archive for Legislature

PR: India Court Declares Personhood for Ganga and Yumana Rivers

CELDF working in India to Recognize Rights of the Ganga River Basin

Contact:
Mari Margil
mmargil@celdf.org

MERCERSBURG, PA, USA: On March 20, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in the State of Uttarakhand in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that the River Ganga and River Yumana are “legal persons/living persons.”  This comes after numerous rulings by the court which found that while the rivers are “central to the existence to half of Indian population and their health and well being,” they are severely polluted, with their very existence in question.

The court declared that throughout India’s history, it has been necessary to declare that certain “entities, living inanimate, objects or things” to be declared a “juristic person.”  In the case of the Ganga and Yumana, the court explained the time has come to recognize them as legal persons “in order to preserve and conserve” the rivers.

The movement to recognize certain legal rights of nature and particular ecosystems is growing.  Beginning in 2006, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted the community of Tamaqua Borough, in the State of Pennsylvania in the United States, to draft and pass the very first rights of nature law in the world.  CELDF has since assisted more than three dozen communities across the U.S., as well as the first country in the world – Ecuador – to secure the rights of nature to exist and flourish.

As efforts to advance legal rights of nature continue, CELDF has been partnering with India-based NGOs to recognize fundamental rights of the Ganga River and the entire river basin.

With the Global WASH Alliance-India and Ganga Action Parivar, CELDF drafted the proposed National Ganga River Rights Act.  The Act would recognize fundamental rights of the Ganga to exist, flourish, evolve, and be restored, and the people of India to a healthy, thriving river ecosystem.  The legislation is now under consideration by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which in recent months established a committee within the Modi administration to review the Act.

In calling for significant legal change, in a February 2016 ruling – a precursor to this week’s ruling – the court stated, “The legislation, till now, has not helped to save Ganga.  We need a comprehensive legislation at the national level dealing with the Ganga alone.”

With regard to the court’s ruling this week, Mari Margil, CELDF’s Associate Director and head of the organization’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, explained, “Recognition of personhood rights are an important step forward toward the recognition of the full rights of the rivers to be healthy, natural ecosystems.”

“Such rights would include the rights of the rivers to pure water, to flow, to provide habitat for river species, and other rights essential to the health and well-being of these ecosystems,” Margil explained.  In local laws in the U.S., as well as in the Ecuador Constitution, rights of nature laws secure rights that are necessary to the ability of ecosystems to be healthy and thrive.  These laws transform ecosystems from being considered resources available for human use, to living entities with inherent rights.

These laws have been passed as there is a growing recognition around the world that environmental laws premised on regulating the use of nature, are unable to protect nature.  Margil stated, “The collapse of ecosystems and species, as well as the acceleration of climate change, are clear indications that a fundamental change in the relationship between humankind and the natural world is necessary.”

In a February 2016 ruling, the Uttarakhand court wrote, “All the rivers have the basic right to maintain their purity and to maintain free and natural flow.”  Whether the court includes these rights within the scope of its recent “personhood” declaration is not clear, or whether courts will expand on the rights recognized this week remains to be seen, Margil explained.

The High Court of Uttarakhand’s ruling comes after the finalization of a settlement agreement between the Maori people and the government of New Zealand regarding the Whanganui River.  In that settlement, finalized through a vote of the Parliament, the river is recognized as having personhood rights.  CELDF believes that the movement in New Zealand and India to recognize certain rights of ecosystems are important in the growing movement to move away from legal systems which treat nature as property under the law, to laws which recognize inherent rights of nature.

Today, CELDF is partnering with communities and organizations across the United States, as well as in Nepal, India, Australia, Sweden, and other countries to advance rights of nature legal frameworks.

About the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) & the International Center for the Rights of Nature

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.  CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature is partnering with communities and organizations in countries around the world to advance the rights of nature.

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Earth Law Updates – May 11, 2016

From Tom Brenan, Gaia Foundation

Here’s the latest Earth law update:

  • The fifteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is currently taking place in New York, from 9th to 20th In its ‘Proud to be Indigenous’ weeks, Cultural Survival is aiming to create a storm of online activity to enable the voices of those who are unable to attend the meeting in New York to be heard.
  • The Land Rights Now alliance, a global initiative to secure indigenous and community land rights, was launched in March and already has more than 400 organisations and communities participating. Currently it is estimated that only 10% of lands held collectively are formally recognised as owned or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities. The initiative aims to double this area of land by 2020.
  • Grant Township in Pennsylvania, USA, has passed a law legalising direct action to prevent the fracking wastewater injection wells within the township. The law permits non-violent direct action to enforce the provisions of the Grant Township Community Bill of Rights Ordinance which established rights to clean air and water, the right to local community self-government and the rights of Nature. The proposed well would be a violation of those rights.
  • The Australian Earth Laws Alliance will be holding an evening seminar with a facilitated discussion ‘Exploring Earth Laws, Earth Democracy and the Rights of Nature’ on 20th This is aimed at deepening understanding and enabling support for individual and collective activity.

 

Earth law update – March 24, 2016

From Tom Brenan, Gaia Foundation

Here are some recent Earth law developments:

  • The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) has issued a call for papers in preparation for its conference on 20th and 21st October 2016, ‘The future of Australian environmental law: politics, reform and community activism’. Individual papers and panels are welcome on a wide range of themes exploring future environmental law and governance in Australia. The closing date for submission of abstracts to AELA is 1st June 2016.
  • Residents in Barrington, New Hampshire, USA, have voted to adopt a Community Bill of Rights which asserts their right to clean air and water and local community self-government. The ordinance bans corporate gravel extraction and water withdrawal. It also recognizes the Rights of Nature, such that “ecosystems possess rights to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve” and “residents of the town shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those ecosystems.” The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has been working with residents to advance community rights since 2006.
  • In the wake of COP21 in Paris, Vanda Shiva has suggested a Pact for the Earth as a manifesto for sustainability. The pledge starts with seeing and cherishing the soil as a living entity whose survival is essential to our own and goes on to recognise that we are all members of the Earth community, in which all species, peoples and cultures have intrinsic worth and rights to sustenance.
  • Back in November 2014, the Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA) Consortium co-organised a main Stream of events at the World Parks Congress in Sydney (Australia).  This was the Stream on Enhancing Diversity, Quality and Vitality of Governance which took years to prepare and drew together the experience, knowledge, energy, engagement and creativity of several hundred people.  Three 20 minute films are now available which are designed to take viewers on a journey of exploration of “the complex, sensitive and sometimes confusing and disturbing phenomenon called ‘governance of protected and conserved areas’”.

Community Bills of Rights on November Ballot

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund reports that the City Councils of both Pittsburgh, PA and Spokane, WA have voted this week to move forward with Community Bill of Rights ordinances on the November ballot.

In a CELDF News brief, Mari Margil explains that the Bills of Rights secure and expand new rights for people, their communities, and nature, while eliminating certain constitutional “rights” of corporations.

PITTSBURGH:

The Pittsburgh City Council voted to place the Community Bill of Rights on the November ballot.  The Council adopted the Community Bill of Rights in November as an ordinance and is now sending it to the voters as an amendment to the city’s Home Rule Charter, the city’s local constitution.

The Bill of Rights includes a right to water, the rights of nature, the right to local self-government, and bans croporations from natural gas drilling.  In addition, natural gas corporations shall not have the rights of “persons” or be afforded protections under the Commerce or Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

For more, click here.

SPOKANE:

The Spokane City Council voted to place a Community Bill of Rights on the November ballot.  Our local partner group – Envision Spokane – successfully qualified the citizens’ initiative to the ballot, collecting over 4,500 signatures of voters, and it was placed on the ballot by a vote of the council on Tuesday night.  The ballot measure would amend the city’s Home Rule Charter.

The Spokane Bill of Rights establishes the right of neighborhoods within the city to make decisions about major development projects; establishes rights of the Spokane River and Aquifer to exist and flourish, rights that can be enforced and defended by people and the city itself; secures constitutional rights of workers in the workplace and secures collective bargaining rights for workers in unionized workplaces; and eliminates the authority of corporations to wield their corporate constitutional “rights” to undermine any of the rights in the Bill of Rights.

For more, click here.  And for the latest coverage from the Spokesman-Review, click here.

For more information about Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, visit www.celdf.org

To post to CELDF News group, send email to celdf-news@googlegroups.com.