Archive for India

Universal Declaration of River Rights

From Earth Law Center (ELC)

In the first half of 2017, four rivers have been granted legal personhood status, that is, they have been granted the same legal rights as a juristic person. This includes the Whanganui River in New Zealand, the Ganges (Ganga) and Yamuna Rivers in India, and the Atrato River in Colombia.

The Earth Law Center is committed to achieving legal personhood for more rivers and waterways.  In support of a campaign to establish rights for the Rio Magdalena and other rivers, ELC has developed a draft Universal Declaration of River Rights. The Declaration draws from victories for the rights of rivers worldwide as well as scientific understandings of healthy river systems.

The Declaration:

1. Declares that all rivers are entitled to the fundamental rights set forth in this Declaration, which arise from their very existence on our shared planet,

2. Further declares that all rivers are living entities that possess legal standing in a court of law,

3. Establishes that all rivers shall possess, at minimum, the following fundamental rights:
(1) The right to flow; [11]
(2) The right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem; [12]
(3) The right to be free from pollution;
(4) The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers;
(5) The right to native biodiversity; and
(6) The right to restoration, …

Review and sign the full Declaration online (español). Or email Grant Wilson at for more information.

ELC is currently soliciting feedback on and endorsements of the Universal Declaration of River Rights.

Declaración Universal de los Derechos de los Ríos

Declaración Universal de los Derechos de los Ríos

Download the Universal Declaration of River Rights flyer in Spanish.

When Rivers Hold Legal Rights

See full article in Earth Island Institute
by Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights– April 17, 2017

New Zealand and India recognize personhood for ecosystems

Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the Whanganui River is no longer property of New Zealand’s Crown government — the river now owns itself.

When Rivers Hold Legal Rights, Earth Island Institute Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

In March, the Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first water body in the world to receive legal personhood status. Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

Five days after the Te Awa Tupua Bill, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that both the Ganga and Yumana rivers are also “legal persons/living persons.” But what does it mean for a river, or an ecosystem to hold rights? The answer may vary from place to place.

Read full article …


About the author:

Shannon Biggs
Shannon Biggs is the Executive Director of Movement Rights, advancing rights for Indigenous peoples, communities, and ecosystems. She is also the co-founder of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the co-editor of the book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

Rights of Nature Tour of India with Vandana Shiva

Global Exchange Reality Tour ~ November 1 – 11, 2015

India, it is often said is not a country but a continent,

How different would our human societies, economies, and structures of law look as part of a connected, Earth-centered community?

“The ecological and economic problems we face are rooted in a series of reductionist steps, which have shrunk our imagination and our identity, our purpose on the Earth, and the instruments we use to meet our needs. We are first and foremost Earth citizens. And our highest duty is to maintain the living systems of the Earth that support our life. Earth citizenship needs Earth-centered cultures, Earth-based democracy, and Earth-centered economies.” -Vandana Shiva, from the book, The Rights of Nature

While many over the past decades have explored the idea of living in balance with the planet and limiting the role of unfettered corporate power in all aspects of life, the rights-based movement that seeks to change fundamental law and culture is both relatively new and rapidly accelerating. It has kept pace with the realization that the current corporate-led global economic framework has brought us to the brink of economic and ecological disaster, and that true change will only come from the grassroots.

Program Highlights:

* Visit to the Raj Ghat
* Visit to Dr. Vandana Shiva Navdanya Biodiversity and Conservation Farm
* Meet with the National Ganga Rights Movement
* Learn about the people’s movement against POSCO
* 5 days at the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm
* Meet with various local NGOs

Learn more about Global Exchange Reality Tour’s very special opportunity at Rights of Nature Tour of India with Vandana Shiva.

Read Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program Director Shannon Biggs blog about the first Rights of Nature trip that took place in November 2013.

Planting Seeds with Vandana Shiva & Prince Charles: Reality Tour to India’s Earth University

Planting Seeds with Vandana Shiva & Prince Charles: Reality Tour to India’s Earth University 2013

Seeding a transformed future

by Patricia Siemen May 12, 2015

Dr. Mira Shiva, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Sr. Pat Siemen. (Photo provided by Patricia Siemen)

Dr. Mira Shiva, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Sr. Pat Siemen. (Photo provided by Patricia Siemen)

Last month I returned from my first visit to India. I was invited to lead a week’s workshop on “Earth Democracy: Defending the Rights of People and Mother Earth” with Dr. Vandana Shiva and her sister Dr. Mira Shiva, a physician and leader in public health. The course took place at the Navdanya Biodiversity Learning Center at Bija Vidapeeth University in Dehradun, India.

Dehradun is nestled in the Doon Valley in northern India, at the foothills of the Himalayas, situated between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Eight of us traveled from New Delhi to Dehradun by train for five hours to reach the Earth University learning site. It is comprised of a communal living compound and 50 acres of farm land growing only plants from native seeds. Navdanya is organized as a Gandhian ashram with a commitment to non-violence and a daily schedule of meditation and communal work – preparing the meals, cleaning the common spaces and working in the garden. The teaching sessions are often held outside if the weather is amenable.

Teaching with Dr. Vandana Shiva, an internationally renowned environmentalist, physicist, author, speaker and seed-saver par excellence, is a high honor. She and I first met in 2010 when I invited her to lead a conference on Earth Rights; Human Rights at the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law where I teach. We reconnected in 2013 in Quito, Ecuador, during the World’s First Peoples’ Tribunal on the Rights of Mother Earth, which was sponsored by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. It was while we were in Ecuador that Vandana invited me to teach a week’s course with her in India.

Read Pat’s complete inspiring article Seeding a transformed future at GlobalSistersReport

Ganga’s Rights are our Rights!

Please Sign Now!

The Ganga river (known to many outside India as the Ganges River) supports some 500 million people — more than the populations of the United States, Russia and Australia combined.  This most sacred river to the Hindus is dying.  Every day, over 3 billion litres of pollution, mostly toxic chemicals and untreated sewage, enters the Ganga, putting countless lives at stake. Elsewhere, the Ganga is diverted to the point that it disappears for stretches that can exceed 20 kilometers. As the river disappears, so does the ecosystem, which includes endangered species such as the beautiful Ganges River Dolphin.

The Ganga Action Parivar has declared Gangas Rights are our Rights!   In this race against time, National Ganga Rights Movement is asking for your help in demonstrating global support for the Rights of the Ganga River.

Sign petition to support the Ganga's Rights

Sign petition to support the Ganga’s Rights

Please begin by signing our petition and passing it along. While there is still time. We thank you so very much. or at

The National Ganga Rights Act is proposed with the purposes of establishing, securing, and defending the inalienable and inherent rights of the Ganga River, its tributaries, and watershed, and the rights of the people of India to a healthy, thriving river basin.  Further, the Act establishes the rights of the people of India and their governments to defend and enforce the rights of the Ganga.

More specifically the Ganga Rights Act would:

  • Establish the Ganga’s right to exist, thrive, regenerate, and evolve;
  • Empower individuals, groups, and governments within India to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights in the court of law;
  • Affirm the rights of people, plants, fish and animals to a healthy Ganga;
  • Provide that any activity that interferes with the Ganga’s rights will be prohibited;
  • Provide that any damages that may be awarded for violations of the Ganga’s rights will be used to restore its ecosystem to its pre-damaged state;
  • Institute enforcement mechanisms to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights, including establishing governmental offices responsible for defending those rights.

Founding Global Alliance member Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has partnered with  Ganga Action Parivar to draft the National Ganga River Rights Act. We invite you to support the peoples of India and the Ganga River by signing the petition.