India grants sacred rivers status of ‘legal persons’

Monday’s landmark court ruling, while drawing attention to the dismal state of the rivers, will do little to protect them, according to analysts. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2017

India grants sacred rivers status of ‘legal persons’

DEHRADUN, India: Two of India’s holiest but most polluted rivers have been recognized as a “legal person” in a landmark court ruling that could see the sacred waterways restored to health.
The decision to bestow legal standing to the Ganges and the Yamuna, one of its major tributaries, comes just days after New Zealand awarded similar rights to its own spiritual river in a move described as a world first.
The highest court in Uttarakhand, the Himalayan state where the Ganges originates, late Monday declared the rivers as “living entities having the status of a legal person” and all corresponding rights.
The state’s High Court in the resort town of Nainital said it took the unusual step because the hallowed rivers upon which Hindu rites are conducted were “losing their very existence.”
“This situation requires extraordinary measures to preserve and conserve these rivers,” the court said in its ruling.
The Ganges is India’s longest and holiest river, but the waters in which pilgrims ritualistically bathe and scatter the ashes of their dead is heavily polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in 2014 on a promise to revitalize the Ganges, even tasking a dedicated minister to the job, but results have been mixed three years on.
MC Pant, the lawyer who argued the case in Uttarakhand, said past court efforts to protect the river were done in the name of individual petitioners.
“Now, they can be filed in the name of the river itself,” he said.
Activists celebrated the groundbreaking ruling but cautioned against over-optimism given the scale of the task at hand.
“At the end of the day, one can only hope the symbolism attached to this order translates into real action on the ground,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, a New Delhi-based environment lawyer.
New Zealand last week recognized its third-largest river, ancestral and spiritual waters for its Maori people, as a living entity.
Successive governments in India have attempted with limited success to clean up the Ganges, which snakes 2,500 km across northern India from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.


World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

Updated 25 February 2020

World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

  • Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home
  • The news came less than two weeks after Watanabe was officially recognized by Guinness World Records

TOKYO: A Japanese man recently named the world’s oldest living male has died aged 112, a local official said Tuesday.

Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home in the same prefecture, the official said.

The news came less than two weeks after he was officially recognized by Guinness World Records.

Watanabe, who had five children, said the secret to longevity was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.”

He admitted a penchant for sweets such as custard pudding and ice cream.

The oldest man in Japan is now Issaku Tomoe, who is 110 years old, according to Jiji Press, although it was not clear if Tomoe holds the title globally.

The oldest living person is also Japanese, Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old woman.

Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and has been home to several people recognized as among the oldest humans to have ever lived.

They include Jiroemon Kimura, the longest-living man on record, who died soon after his 116th birthday in June 2013.

The oldest verified person — Jeanne Louise Calment of France — died in 1997 at the age of 122, according to Guinness.