High Court of Kerala approached for preservation of Bharathapuzha

Friends of Bharathapuzha led by E. Sreedharan seek legal entity status for the river

Friends of Bharathapuzha led by E. Sreedharan seek legal entity status for the river

The Friends of Bharatapuzha (FoB), an organization working for the conservation of the Bharathapuzha River, have approached the High Court of Kerala to request its intervention for the protection of the river. Several personalities, including the technocrat E. Sreedharan, have been involved in the conservation of the river.

Led by Mr. Sreedharan, the FoB requested an environmental impact study based on the unscientific constructions in the Bharathapuzha. He also sought a “legal entity” status for the river given the similar status given to some water bodies around the world.

Admitting the case, Judge VG Arun quoted a few lines from Edassery’s famous poem on the Bharathapuzha and said the conservation of the river was of utmost importance.

Rema Smrithi VK, representing the FoB, pointed out that no action had been taken on the report of the Mullakkara Ratnakaran Environment Committee presented to the Assembly on August 23, 2017. The committee had found that unscientific constructions in the river considerably hindered its smooth flow. She said other construction was underway instead.

The unscientific nature of the construction at Koottakkadavu, near Thrithala, was highlighted in a report presented to the High Court.

Vinod Nambiar, secretary of the FoB, said several government agencies were seen as the owners of the river, but none were seen to conserve it. He said the FoB was forced to seek legal help after unsuccessfully approaching different government departments.

“In our brief, we raised the claim that the Bharathapuzha have every right to exist and be protected like any other living being,” Ms Smrithi said.

She said the state has a duty to protect the river when others cause damage to it. “The river must be maintained in such a way that no other person or entity inflicts damage on it,” she said, citing several examples of judgments and laws.

The Uttarakhand High Court had ruled in 2017 that the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, the Gangothri and Yamunothri glaciers and associated natural features were ‘juridical persons’ and had all the corresponding rights, duties and responsibilities of a living person . Similarly, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court ruled on nature as a legal entity, when the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in 2020 declared Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh to be a living entity.

“The New Zealand Parliament has given legal status to its national rivers and parks on the principle that nature has a right to exist,” Mr Nambiar said, demanding that similar legislation also be passed in Kerala for the conservation of its water bodies.

The Bharathapuzha conservation campaign has been going on for about three decades since its launch in 1992 under the leadership of the late poet-ecologist Sugathakumari. “Several organizations have repeatedly called for the establishment of a Bharathapuzha River Basin Authority, but nothing has materialized,” Nambiar said.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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